Amid tweets defending his immigration policies, slamming Obama for putting kids in cages and wrapping them in foil, and smacking the “filthy” restaurant that booted his press secretary, President Donald J. Trump found some time this weekend to taunt late-night host Jimmy Fallon.
During the 2016 election, Fallon famously interviewed Trump and, according to Trump critics, went too easy on the Republican candidate, at one point playfully tousling his hair, and thus “normalizing” him. In a rather emotional interview with The Hollywood Reporter’s “Awards Chatter” podcast last week, Fallon discussed the extreme backlash he faced over the interview and said he now regrets the way he conducted it.
“It just got bigger and out of control,” Fallon told THR of the backlash against him for having on Trump. “I saw other comedians from other shows making fun of me on Twitter and I go, ‘Okay, now I’m just gonna get off.’ They know the show. I’m just doing five hours a week. I get in at 10 in the morning, I work ’til seven at night and I’m just trying to make a funny show. [Addressing them:] ‘You know the grind and you know me. Of all the people in the world, I’m one of the good people — I mean, really. You don’t even know what you’re talking about if you say that I’m evil or whatever.’ But people just jump on the train, and some people don’t even want to hear anything else. They’re like, ‘No, you did that!’ You go, ‘Well, just calm down and just look at the whole thing and actually see my body of work.'”
The period after the interview, he said was “definitely a down time” and “tough for morale” among the people on the show. “There’s 300 people that work here, and so when people are talking that bad about you and ganging up on you, in a really gang-mentality,” Fallon said, fighting back tears, “you go, ‘Alright, we get it. I heard you. You made me feel bad. So now what? Are you happy? I’m depressed. Do you want to push me more? What do you want me to do? You want me to kill myself? What would make you happy? Get over it.'”
He continued: “I’m sorry. I don’t want to make anyone angry — I never do and I never will. It’s all in the fun of the show. I made a mistake. I’m sorry if I made anyone mad. And, looking back, I would do it differently.”
Trump responded on Twitter Sunday by telling Fallon to “man” up.
“@jimmyfallon is now whimpering to all that he did the famous ‘hair show’ with me (where he seriously messed up my hair), & that he would have now done it differently because it is said to have ‘humanized’ me-he is taking heat. He called & said ‘monster ratings.’ Be a man Jimmy!”
As the Huffington Post reports, Fallon “received an onslaught of criticism for his interview with Trump. Internet users complained about Fallon choosing to play with Trump’s hair rather than pushing the presidential candidate on his controversial campaign rhetoric.”
Fallon has stayed relatively quiet about the interview, addressing it publicly only on a few occasions, including telling the New York Times last year that he tousled Trump’s hair to “minimize him,” not “humanize him.”
“I didn’t do it to humanize him,” he told the Times. “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.'”
Partial transcript via THR.