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The 2016 presidential campaign season was a media circus, and one of the most talked-about events prior to the election was Jimmy Fallon's interview of then-Republican candidate Donald Trump. It came at a time when a lot of people had some very big questions for Trump, and there was some hope that Fallon would throw some hard-hitting questions his way during their chat on The Tonight Show. Instead, he mostly threw softball questions, and ended the interview by ruffling Trump's hair. Fallon faced widespread criticism for the January 11, 2016 interview. Now, more than a year later, Fallon has spoken out about what happened, saying this:
I'm a people pleaser. 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. . . . I didn't talk about it, and I should have talked about it. I regret that.
All things considered, how Jimmy Fallon conducted the interview with Donald Trump wasn't that huge of a surprise. Fallon and The Tonight Show are known for going more for fun and silliness than political comedy, and he was never going to press Trump to answer some of the biggest questions some of us may have had about plans and policy. Still, it wasn't what many wanted to see, and Fallon never came out to address why he did what he did. His comments to The New York Times indicate that he would go back and explain himself to viewers if he could.
That said, Jimmy Fallon really might have gotten away with the mild interview if not for the hair-ruffling incident. To some, it seemed like Fallon was trying harder to humanize and sympathize with Donald Trump than to analyze him, and so Fallon hasn't quite escaped the incident, especially as Trump continues to grow more and more polarizing. The Tonight Show host also explained why he went for the hair ruffle:
I didn't do it to humanize him. 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.'
At this point, it's impossible to say what would have happened if Jimmy Fallon had conducted the interview differently or kept his hands out of Donald Trump's hair. Thanks to social media and Youtube, the buzz over the interview hasn't yet died down, and that buzz may be at least part of why the ratings for The Tonight Show are down. The political commentary courtesy of Stephen Colbert has resulted in a huge rise in ratings for The Late Show, which is now regularly beating The Tonight Show. We'll have to wait and see if the current ratings trends are sustainable.
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