Worst TV Moments 2016

Jimmy Fallon 'Devastated' by Trump Interview Backlash, Concedes Viewers 'Have a Right to Be Mad'

Jimmy Fallon was pulling out his own hair in the wake of his widely-maligned Tonight Show interview with Donald Trump, in which he playfully ran his hands through the then-candidate’s mane. And eight months later, the backlash continues to haunt him.

“I’m a people pleaser,” he tells the New York Times, addressing the kerfuffle for the first time. “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.”

Fallon maintains that the hair gesture was not meant to “humanize” Trump, but rather “minimize” him. “I didn’t think that would be a compliment.”

Regardless, he says viewers “have a right to be mad. If I let anyone down, it hurt my feelings that they didn’t like it. I got it.”

In the months that followed the September interview, Fallon has seen his overall audience steadily decline; he now regularly trails his CBS rival Stephen Colbert. Still, Fallon stresses that he has no plans to alter his apolitical brand of comedy. “I don’t want to be bullied into not being me, and not doing what I think is funny,” he says. “Just because some people bash me on Twitter, it’s not going to change my humor or my show. It’s not The Jimmy Fallon Show. It’s The Tonight Show.”

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98 Comments
  1. No deal. He knew exactly what he was doing, and that was legitimising, or helping to, Trump. For ratings? That backfired spectacularly.

    • Mika02 says:

      This!

    • Karter says:

      Completely agree. Fallon deserves the backlash. Invited Trump for ratings, no moral backbone, and is devastated because people did not laugh and smile with him dealing with someone like Trump. *rolls eyes*

    • THMidwest says:

      Uh….Trump won and will keep on winning for 8 years. #MAGA

      • Mary says:

        Doubtful, since his approval numbers keep going in the dumpster. You know the saying don’t count your chickens before they hatch. His winning for the first 6 months have been dismal. Make America Golf again?

      • E. D. Boddy says:

        We’ve only a couple months in, and the constant snark from the left is already tiresome. They are incapable of making a single comment without throwing in something hateful about Trump or “Trump supporters.” I really don’t know what they think they’re accomplishing.

        • bos4ny3 says:

          I know! It almost feels the Obama years with all of the birth certificate stuff, doesn’t it?

        • Billy Bob Johnson says:

          Oh, poor baby snowflake. Do you need a safe space?

          It’s called Karma. For the eight years everyone had to put up with your (and by “your” I mean Republican trolls) inane bashing/lying about Obama. At least in this case with Trump, he’s doing it to himself. No help needed by the left.

          • Sindey says:

            True. The “left” is too busy ensuring that no Democrat will ever occupy the White House again :)

        • A fan of TV says:

          Now you probably have some concept of how the left felt about the right wing hating Obama from the word go. Same thing. If you’re tired now, just inside how you’ll feel in 4-8 years!

      • TAB says:

        I bust out laughing every time I see “MAGA” show up anywhere. So thanks for the laugh!

      • Temperance says:

        No, we all lost with that election theft. And he’s not going to last the year, bub. Join reality.

        • Big Ed's Gas Farm says:

          Pshaw and balderdash! And I’ll throw in an “au contraire!” Having observed things political for more than forty years (my first vote for president was for Carter–huge mistake), I’m willing to bet things will ease up quite a bit soon.

        • Sindey says:

          There was no “theft,” Clinton just lost, hilariously. Sorry :)

      • rowan77 says:

        LOL! You’re so funny. Congress is talking about impeachment and you think he’s going to stick around. #Comedy!

      • Ted says:

        Shouldn’t you be dueling with your banjo and lusting after Ned Beatty right now?

    • Chuck says:

      I had actually just started watching his show a couple of weeks before that and then it turned me off so much that I deleted from the DVR. Sorry Jimmy, you should have known better, and the fact that NBC had banned Trump previously, why was he even on any network show, including hosting SNL, in the first place?!

    • Sindey says:

      Trump is the President, so no, nothing backfired. Better luck next time.

  2. Laura says:

    Ridiculous…I love his show and find it ENTERTAINING. No I am not a Trump lover either. Can’t you watch a show for entertainment without being bullied or preached to? So sick of hearing about Trump. Keep at it Jimmy.

    • DL says:

      I’m a liberal and MSNBC junkie, but I still love Jimmy. One thing we could learn from conservatives is how to forgive people. We all make mistakes, and clearly no one is perfect — not late night hosts, or presidents, not even our greatest heroes. The left’s obstinance and willingness to nurse grudges over every perceived slight is a foil to the right’s willingness to excuse or normalize increasingly engregious behavior, in my opinion. I still meet Bernie supporters who regard Hillary supporters like some kind of monstrous heathens. If we want to turn our country away from extremism, we should first look to our own midst. As for Jimmy, he’s fessed up, apologized, and he’s suffering the karmic repercussions. I don’t see why there’s a need to resent him personally. He’s flawed like everyone else.

      • Patrick says:

        I love how Bernie’s supporters act like Trump isn’t their doing.

        • Liz says:

          Oh really? Not sure about that. Personally I think its time for the Democratic party establishment to take a long hard look at itself and realize that it is not the party of the people it pretends to be. Bernie Sanders was calling them on it, and in his own way Trump was calling them on it too.
          It’s really sad that both parties are so intent on disagreeing with each other that they are essentially ignoring the people they are supposedly representing.

      • Temperance says:

        Conservatives don’t forgive people in the real world. Suggesting they have morals worth having anymore is obviously silly. That didn’t used to be the case – read the Republican plat form of 1954… which is more ald to the left of the current Dems.

        • You’re saying half the country doesn’t have morals?

          You must not know very many conservatives. Ask them what they believe sometime and actually listen rather than generalizing and assuming. You’d be surprised.

      • Darsan54 says:

        I only want to ask who are the conservatives you know? I know lotsa of them who are still steamed over Bork. I have never known a single conservative (and especially the religious variety) who ever forgive, much less forget. Barking up the wrong tree man.

        • You don’t know very many conservatives. If you did, you would know that forgiveness isn’t a political party, it’s a personal preference or belief. Saying “Conservatives don’t do this” or “Liberals don’t do that” is awful. Everyone in this country has a right to a belief, but behind that belief you have a person, and not two single people believe or do the same exact thing.

          I’m conservative when it comes to fiscal maters. But I’m much more liberal when it comes to social issues. I vote Republican. Go ahead, lump me in with everyone else.

      • Are you kidding me? Conservatives can teach us how to forgive? Did the left orchestrate and drag out the Hillary witchhunt for nearly a decade? Did the left first chastise Hillary for mishandling emails/classified information and then give Trump a pass for doing the same damned thing? Did the left marginalize gays, women, blacks and immigrants for no good reason. Yes. Let’s learn how to forgive from conservatives.

        You are either a troll or not very bright. The hate and obstinance comes from both sides in equal amounts.

      • A fan of TV says:

        I just prefer snarky, darker, political humour late at night, which I have grown used to since the dawn of The Daily Show. If I want watered down goofy half-funny jokes I could watch a 9pm sitcom. The Trump thing isn’t even what made me less inclined to care what was happening on The Tonight Show, but his ratings, especially compared to Colbert’s, tell a pretty significant story about what people watching late night TV seem to want right now, if not always.

    • Lyndy says:

      I love Jimmy and his show but after that Trump interview I kinda distanced myself from him, and I didn’t quite enjoy his show as much. I knew Fallon was never one to make waves but I also never thought he would willingly invite Trump and give him a platform when he was already chastising so many. I was very disappointed in Fallon for that. Nowadays the late night shows that keep me laughing are the ones I had never ever paid much attention to before, Seth Meyers, Trevor Noah and sometimes Kimmel. I still love Fallon though.

    • MLPR says:

      I agree with you and Jimmy. It’s the Tonight Show…not the Jimmy Fallon Show. He shouldn’t be preaching. However, we must be in the minority since his numbers are down. That’s a shame.

  3. I think Jimmy has every right to have anyone guest he chooses. If you look to appeal to the entire audience base sometimes that means people with opposing views. If anything it made me want to watch Jimmy more because during the election he was one of the only ones NOT shoving his personal politics down my throat! Stick to your guns Mr. Fallon, you are funny as hell and eventually the bullies and blowhards on the other networks will remember that they are supposed to be entertainment and not political authorities.

    • DreamRose311 says:

      This. I equally enjoy Jimmy’s silly lets-just-have-fun attitude, and Seth’s ‘Hey look, this is what’s going on…’. They don’t all need to be the same. Jimmy had Hillary on as well, and did fun joke-y stuff with her. It’s not like Jimmy got Trump elected.

      • Patrick says:

        Actions have consequences. Jimmy can have anyone on, and treat them however he wants. But viewers have an equal right to get mad about that and turn the channel. Jimmy seems upset that people are mad at something he did. That is how humanity works. It is like getting upset because water is wet.
        .
        Jimmy’s interviews and skits are routinely the best on late night. No one is perfect, but he’s consistently very good in these areas. His opening monolog is his weakest bit, and he knows it. That is why his monolog is usually the shortest on TV.
        .
        But viewers, and especially the viewers of late night talk shows, probably skew liberal, and they want to hear about that day’s political goings on. This weakness in monolog is killing him right now. Colbert and Kimmel have used this to attract better guests. Fallon had a huge lead in guests, to the point where he could demand that some guests not book a domestic competitor. Now some of those big name guests are staying away from Fallon, which further hurts him, because his show is guest dependent to a level that the other shows are not.
        .
        He shouldn’t have had either candidate on. They only agreed to do his show because he would give them softball questions and kid glove treatment. The other shows would have aggressively questioned BOTH candidates. HRC was used to that, though she was never great at handling it with aplomb. DT doesn’t like hard questioning, so he stuck to Fallon.

  4. nhogan47 says:

    Fallon ruffling Trump’s hair didn’t make people hate Hillary Clinton less, therefore, it had no effect on the outcome of the election.

  5. nabocane says:

    This only goes to show how ‘bubbled’ celebrities are. Now? NOW you’re ‘devastated?’ You were, what, hibernating all year in 2016?

  6. peterwdawson says:

    “It’s not The Jimmy Fallon Show. It’s The Tonight Show.”

    What?

    • Tom says:

      Check the title. The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon. B4 him it was Leno and Carson and more… Always the Tonight Show

      • Annie says:

        It wasn’t a literal question – it’s clear what the title of the show is. The question is what in the world Jimmy’s comment meant and how that’s supposedly a justification.

      • peterwdawson says:

        Yeah, I’m not understanding what his greater point was though. “It’s the Tonight Show.” And? Don’t really understand what that statement has to do with in regards to his defense.

  7. Kelly says:

    I’m no Trump fan, but Fallon has nothing to feel bad about, imho. He hosts a late night talk show, for Pete’s sake! Candidates go on those shows in order to be humanized. It all started when Bill Clinton played the saxophone on The Arsenio Hall Show. I watch these shows to get away from the political nonsense . Weekend Update on SNL is so much funnier when they’re not doing political jokes. We could all use a little lightness in our lives.

  8. Raul Jimenez says:

    Apologize for what? For not engaging in the insane Trump bashing that lefty loons like Colbert and Seth Meyers engage in? For being a beacon of sanity and reason? The left has so poisoned the atmosphere in this country because they cannot get over the fact that Hildebeest lost; never have I seen such a bunch of sore losers and pathetic snowflakes.

    • Angel says:

      Yeah I’m sure that’s your real name troll

    • Stu says:

      You are correct he doesn’t need to apologize, he can conduct his interviews which ever way he wants. And people have the right to stop watching him and tune into Cobert as they have, according to ratings, because we need to see people take down your horrible prez because it seems like the GOP won’t. Not even for the good sake of the American people.
      Hopefully impeachment is coming very soon!!!

    • Nikolette Adams says:

      When are conservatives going to wake up and realize that the ire of the majority of Americans has not one thing to do with the election loss and EVERYTHING to do with the danger the country is in?

      • Annie says:

        Probably not until Trump himself finally stops bringing up the election at every opportunity as though anyone still cares. So basically, never.

      • Sindey says:

        It has everything to do with the election when the left’s horrible candidate was roundly rejected. And their every action since then guarantees Trump’s second term.

    • Anne says:

      It’s not about Hillary losing, it’s about how America elected a fascist. Fascism hasn’t been good for the public in any country ever in the history of earth. That’s what people are upset about.

  9. Julia says:

    Fallon used to be my favorite by far and I can’t even watch him anymore. It’s not even about political comedy, it’s about his failure to use his platform to stand up and say that what’s happening isn’t normal and at the very least not stand around being complicit. He doesn’t have to make jokes about it like Colbert or Kimmel but there’s a difference between their styles of political comedy and just standing up and saying that what’s happening is wrong and telling us we need to pay attention. As a privileged white guy he has the opportunity to ignore what’s happening but most of the rest of us don’t have that luxury. He should feel bad about what he did, he contributed to the absurd “legitimization” of a monster and if he really feels bad he should try actively making up for it instead of throwing out a pathetic “apology” that’s really just a pathetic excuse.

    • DreamRose311 says:

      The people who don’t already think what’s happening is wrong aren’t going to have their minds changed by yet another celebrity telling them so. It’s Republican politicians that have the duty to stop being so complicit.

      • Julia says:

        I wasn’t saying it’s his job to change their minds nor was I implying he has the ability to do so. What I was saying is that at least encouraging people to stay active and alert is necessary. EVERYONE who isn’t fighting back in some way should stop being so complicit. That includes Jimmy Fallon and extends all over and heavily toward Republican politicians. Just because you aren’t a republican politician doesn’t mean you’re exempt from being complicit in this chaos.

    • Sindey says:

      Thankfully for the rest of the country, voters don’t need talk show hosts to tell them to “pay attention” (i.e., spew forth leftist talking points).

  10. Gina says:

    I may be biased because I have a soft spot for Fallon. I’m also not a Trump fan/supporter by ANY stretch of the imagination. That said, I didn’t understand the hubbub back then and I still don’t.
    Jimmy Fallon and the Tonight Show has never been Colbert or the Daily Show. Did people honestly expect him to be hard on DJT? Give me a break. Perhaps he shouldn’t have tousled his stupid hair, but that’s about all I see wrong with it.

  11. grazelled says:

    I thought Fallon still led in the demo ratings but haven’t been looking at the the total viewers. I’ve stopped watching his show because it got too silly, not because this “stunt” and I just don’t like the rest of the late night shows.

  12. Mary says:

    I only watch him when he had a guest I wanted to see on, was never a faithful viewer. Have to say that I found his show repetitive most of the time. Oh well, I don’t know if the rating decline is truly due to backlash about #45 but if it makes him feel better to use it as an excuse go for it.

  13. E. D. Boddy says:

    Are people forgetting how he GUSHED over Hillary Clinton (more than with any other guest ever) when she was a guest?

    • Eric H says:

      Of course they are because that would destroy their narrative that Trump was treated better than Hillary was on the Tonight Show.

  14. Katrinka says:

    If Jimmy wants to stay out of the political fray, then he shouldn’t invite politicians on the show. Plain & simple. He’s a self described people pleaser & his feelings seem to be easily hurt. He can choose from the plethora of entertainers who would stir no controversy & love to be on the show.

  15. Adam says:

    I can’t believe NBC (or anyone) thought this guy was sustainable as the host of the tonight show. Colbert will become the new Letterman with ease and Kimmel is a natural. They put a not ready for prime time or late night player into a huge franchise and are now crying over the fact he can’t handle his new position. Just bring back Leno. At least he played down the middle (like Fallon attempts and fails) and lands the punchline.

  16. pickles says:

    People turn to Colbert for the hate. Hate always wins just look at all the Housewives shows,Judge shows and reality shows.Rachel Maddow is another winning on hate.

    • Nikolette Adams says:

      Uh, Maddow happens to be winning on TRUTH. Far too many are choosing to believe the lies that we’re angry Clinton didn’t win, or that we just hate Trump. Wake up and SEE the danger he has and is putting this country in. Stop being willing victims of confirmation bias and being complicit in the destruction of this democracy.

      As for this “snowflake” perjorative, you all need to remember what results when millions of snowflakes band together with a mighty wind behind them. Am I a snowflake? Damned right I am, and there’s a blizzard coming. Expect 2018 to produce the largest blizzard ever, only to be outdone by the one that’s going to hit in 2020. We’re not angry, we’re determined. Most of all, we’re patriots.

  17. Longtime24Fan says:

    Jimmy’s final statement is funny. The reason I never watch him is because it is ALWAYS all about him. He can get on stage with Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartney, and he’ll sing lead and leave them to do the back-up singing.
    As for Trump – his choice to stay out of the political commentary – bad choice. I’ll stick with Colbert now and always.

  18. KP MOM says:

    I love Jimmy and how he doesn’t play politics on his show. I can’t even watch Kimmel or Colbert anymore because they are just so obsessed with Trump. I didn’t vote for the guy, nor do I like him but I’ve had enough of the constant Trump bashing on all these shows, SNL included. It was funny the first 20 times. Now? It’s getting old.

    • Eric H says:

      Agreed. Sometimes it’s nice to see other topics discussed and made light of. Colbert has become unwatchable because he’s only got jokes about politics and nothing else.

  19. TAB says:

    He should just stop talking about it. Creating new headlines about it doesn’t bury it. I had forgotten about it honestly. There are bigger things to worry about now.

  20. *slow head shake* says:

    And another one caves to the lunatic fringe…

  21. Temperance says:

    He had to know that if we was going to vault a racist, sexist, misogynistic, homophobic sociopath, he might get some flack. Sorry, stop whining.

    • Sindey says:

      Your “-ist” word salad has completely convinced everyone who read it that Trump is a terrible person. Congratulations.

  22. Jim says:

    Insert Anderson Cooper’s eye roll.

    “It’s The Tonight Show”

    It’s also not NBC news. If he wants to have a guest on his show and joke around, fine. It’s ENTERTAINMENT. Late night shows such as Colbert and SNL are ruined now, because they have become far too politicized. They alienated half their audience, for cheap ratings. They can no longer write and produce a quality show that appeals to everyone (i.e. Carson). Instead, they pander to the Hollywood elite and one side only of the political spectrum. For now, they garner attention. But it gets old pretty fast, and we’re left with insults, temper tantrums and pouting over politics. If we want that we can turn on any cable news channel or network newscast.

    Kudos to Jimmy for taking the high road and entertaining us…which is, you know, his JOB.

    • Nikolette Adams says:

      You clearly need to take a break from the kool-aid. It’s become very easy to spot the willing victims of confirmation bias; the buzzwords are always prevalent. Hollywood elite; snowflake; lefty … Here’s the problem: the vast majority of the country aren’t looking back at the election or the primaries. We’re living in the now, in a country on the brink being run by someone who seems to think America is a family business. No rules, no personal responsibility, no unkind words. Combine that with zero diplomacy skills, an extremely fragile ego and an utter lack of knowledge of our history, our allies and our enemies, and the result is our current reality: a country on the brink.

      Wake up. Try to wipe that bias out of your mind. This country needs everyone to fight to keep us from going over edge as we continue to protect our democracy.

      • Taya says:

        Geez, calm down…I think the point of the post was about TV losing sight of the fact it is supposed to entertain. Every show doesn’t have to take a side. Late night comedy shows are supposed to aim for a wide audience. They fail when they cast aside half for some very in poor taste political jokes.

      • Sindey says:

        No, the left just can’t handle the wholesale rejection of their imbecilic ideology by the electorate.

  23. Billy Bob Johnson says:

    Johnny Carson sounded more like Colbert and Meyers when it came to a certain president:

    “I hear that whenever someone in the White House tells a lie, Nixon gets a royalty.”
    JOHNNY CARSON, The Tonight Show, 1973

    “Did you know that Richard Nixon is the only president whose formal portrait was painted by a police sketch artist? By the way, Nixon isn’t worried about the gas shortage and that’s understandable, of course. Everything’s downhill for him.”
    JOHNNY CARSON, The Tonight Show, 1973

  24. Anne says:

    So he talks about it NOW…..after his ratings are falling.

  25. Jason says:

    This is such crap. People act like that interview had any impact on the election. Jimmy Fallon is just fine the way he is. His show is light hearted and fun. We’re all going to need something like that in about six months, when we’ve all burnt out on this never ending maelstrom of insanity.

  26. datdudemurphy says:

    If there is anyone who votes for any candidate because of a talkshow appearance, that person does not deserve to be voting.

    The very idea that people seriously think that an appearance on Jimmy’s show allowed Trump to win is ludicrous at best.
    I get it….for the vast majority of us, this election did not go as we hoped it would….but playing with Trump’s hair is NOT what gave Trump the election.

    Get over it.
    Move on.
    Make sure you show up to vote for your Congressmen.

  27. Gospino says:

    I dislike Trump, but Fallon had/has the right to have him on the show. This backlash all just seems stupid.

  28. Ted says:

    The Trump moment was unfortunate but that’s not why I stopped watching Fallon. I stopped watching because he started to come off as being desperate to please everyone. Every mediocre joke a guest told led to hysterical laughing, clapping his hands together, like comedy nirvana had just been obtained. Every once in a while, sure, but SO often just comes off as forced and trying way too hard. The “nice guy” routine just turned sappy. He’s like Chris Hardwicke with a bigger network anymore.

    So I’m with Colbert and Kimmel, not because of the constant attacks on Trump (though I’ll admit it doesn’t hurt), but because they approach comedy with an intelligence and an edge that Fallon’s Ritalin-laced puppy simply lacks.

  29. lindae5o says:

    Fallon is far too easy on Drumpf since the election. That’s why his ratings have fallen. The candidate had already shown he was an a-hole, back then. One small defence – no one thought the orange-head would win.

  30. dude says:

    He’s the Ellen of late night. All of his interviews are fluff meant to help celebrities promote their brand. That’s not to say that other late night hosts are particularly hard hitting but they don’t fawn over their guests the way he does. He treats all his guests like they’re special little flowers which is why I’d rather watch literally any other late night host.

  31. Joe says:

    Fallon was great at 12:35am. Loved the show, loved the comedy bits. He dropped most of those when he graduated to 11:35pm, his show became more boring. But him playing around with Trump, before the election, when America already knew of a lot of Trump’s misdoings, was going over the line and unacceptable. It’s like he was helping Trump pander to the younger demographics for votes. Sorry Jimmy, I record and watch Colbert & Kimmel now, and you get left off the recording list, even if you have good guests. But I enjoy watching Seth Myers, very smart man and topical.

  32. A fan of TV says:

    It isn’t about being bullied into changing the show by Twitter trolls, it’s about acknowledging that you’re losing valuable market share to hosts who are giving viewers more to tune in for every night. Twitter trolls don’t rule the world, but money does.
    But pedestrian, straight-laced, goofy comedy is not made for late night. It’s probably why all his best bits are viral skits people can enjoy the morning after. Even Corden had more edge. Being family friendly at 11:30pm is pointless, IMO.

  33. AnnieM says:

    Why and how is all of this even a thing? Not *every* talk show host has been political in their humor, it’s just that it’s been a really long time since American TV has had one who’s not. If anything, I’d call Jimmy Fallon a modern version of Mike Douglas, not so much Merv Griffin. Anyway, the only late-night hosts I would watch regularly were Carson, Letterman, and Crag Ferguson. With today’s late night, I watch episodes based on the guest(s) rather than the host.