The “Tonight Show” host faced a barrage of criticism online following his interview with Trump where he playfully ruffled his hair, living out what he called a “lifelong dream.”
Earlier that same day, Trump gave an interview to The Washington Post and refused to say Barack Obama was born in the United States. Despite Trump’s contentious remarks, Fallon avoided tough political talk and instead asked innocuous questions about Trump’s children and his campaign. After the lighthearted interview, the talk show host soon found himself at the receiving end of a backlash for “humanizing” and “normalizing” Trump and his extremist beliefs.
“I didn’t do it to humanize him,” Fallon says, explaining the moment he ruffled Trump’s hair. “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 negative reaction to his interview hurt Fallon, who says the online vitriol towards him made him “upset.”
“I’m a people pleaser. If there’s one bad thing on Twitter about me, it will make me upset,” he says. “So, after this happened, I was devastated. I didn’t mean anything by it. I was just trying to have fun.”
As the fury over his interview reached a boiling point, Fallon says he regrets the way he handled the fallout in the days following Trump’s appearance.
“I didn’t talk about it, and I should have talked about it,” he admits. “I regret that. I tossed and turned for a couple of weeks, but I have to make people laugh. People that voted for Trump watch my show as well.”
At the peak of the Trump backlash in October, Fallon was facing down rumours over problems in his personal life — namely, an alleged drinking problem.
In October, the New York Post published an article claiming NBC execs were worried Fallon’s drinking was “out of control” after the host found himself at the centre of a series of bizarre incidents. The article alleged Fallon’s excessive drinking was what caused the 42-year-old host to nearly sever his finger, chip a tooth while attempting to open a bottle of medicine, and cut his hand on a bottle of Jagermeister. More network concerns were sparked when witnesses claimed to have spotted a “very drunk” Fallon at a punk rock bar at 3 a.m. on a Monday in September.
Fallon addresses the rumours of his alcoholism in the New York Times profile, categorically denying all claims.
“I could never do a day-to-day job if I was drinking every night,” Fallon explains. “That’s just kicking you when you’re down.”
Though Fallon admits that he sometimes feels insecure over his performance, he isn’t able to dwell on it.
“I’ve got another show tomorrow. I can’t even worry about tonight’s anymore. I’ve already spent too much time,” he concludes.