Jimmy Fallon faced steep criticism for his September 2016 interview with Donald Trump, during which he asked the then-presidential candidate goofy questions and petted his hair. The host of “The Tonight Show” was slammed on both social and traditional media, with some people even blaming him for Trump’s surprising victory.
In an interview with The New York Times, Fallon has opened up about the fallout from Trump’s appearance on the show. “I didn’t do it to humanize him,” Fallon told the paper. “I almost did it to minimize him. I didn’t think that would be a compliment: ‘He did the thing that we all wanted to do.'”
The comedian said that once the interview was broadcast, “it all started going crazy.” The host, who is an avid social media user, added, “I go, I just can’t read Twitter. Then I can’t read the news. I can’t read the internet.”
Fallon spoke about how the backlash affected him personally. “I’m a people pleaser,” he said. “If there’s one bad thing on Twitter about me, it will make me upset. So, after this happened, I was devastated. I didn’t mean anything by it. I was just trying to have fun.”
In an email to the paper, Tina Fey weighed in on the controversy. “Jimmy is not a political comedian, so it would be very phony of him to go out and do long political joke rants just because that’s what some people want,” she said. “‘The Tonight Show’ has historically been a friendly, light show.”
And, while Fallon would like to keep his show friendly, he wishes he had addressed the Trump interview during the heat of the controversy. “I didn’t talk about it, and I should have talked about it,” he said. “I regret that.”
In April, the Times reported that Fallon’s competitor, Stephen Colbert, had dethroned him in ratings for nine consecutive weeks, becoming the most viewed show in late-night television. According to the paper, Colbert has benefited from his critique against the Trump administration.
Check out Fallon’s controversial interview with Trump below.