NBC/Andrew Lipovsky(NEW YORK) — In a soul-searching interview with The New York Times, Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon says he was “devastated” by reaction to his now infamous, hair-tousling interview with Donald Trump during the 2016 election campaign.
Fallon has clearly thought a lot about that interview in recent weeks as rival Stephen Colbert of CBS’s The Late Show has ridden nightly anti-Trump humor to consistent ratings wins, though The Tonight Show still does better with a younger audience that advertisers like.
“I’m a people pleaser,” Fallon tells the paper, explaining his response to criticism that he had “normalized” Trump during the contentious campaign. “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.”
Of his critics Fallon says, “They have a right to be mad,” adding, “If I let anyone down, it hurt my feelings that they didn’t like it. I got it.”
Fallon explains that the hair-tousling moment maybe didn’t come off as he intended. “I didn’t do it to humanize him,” he tells 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.’”
Still, don’t expect the chipper host and his celebrity-driven show to make a turn towards the political.
“I don’t want to be bullied into not being me, and not doing what I think is funny,” he tells the paper. “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,” he added.