In an extensive and candid interview with The New York Times, Jimmy Fallon finally responded to the backlash he received for interviewing Donald Trump prior to the 2016 election. As other talk show hosts refused to meet with Trump, Fallon welcomed the then-presidential candidate on The Tonight Show and playfully ruffled his hair in a moment that has since lived in infamy.
The interaction did not bode well for Fallon. The host came out looking out of touch considering Trump’s controversial campaign and political stance. Nearly a year later, five months into Trump’s presidency, Fallon gets that.
In the interview published on May 17, Fallon said he understood the criticism. “They have a right to be mad. If I let anyone down, it hurt my feelings that they didn’t like it. I got it.” What’s more, Fallon said the negative feedback affected him on a personal level. “I’m a people pleaser,” he said. “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.”
That being said, Fallon didn’t entirely apologize for the interview. From his perspective, Fallon said he wasn’t trying to “humanize” Trump. “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.'”
Then, of course, there’s the fact that not all Tonight Show viewers were against the candidate. Fallon explained, “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.”
Fallon’s only real lasting regret? That he didn’t talk about the whole ordeal sooner. He said, “I didn’t talk about it, and I should have talked about it. I regret that.”