Jimmy Fallon has always copped a little bit of heat for his style of hosting The Tonight Show. He strenuously tries to be entirely apolitical – even when it is somewhat baffling to be apolitical – which has landed him in a few sticky situations. 

None stickier, however, than when he brought Donald Trump onto his show just two weeks before the election, and subjected him to no harsher interrogation than ruffling his hair.

I mean, one might argue that it’s not really Fallon’s place to play the interrogator. But it’s definitely weird that he and his team are trying their darndest to exploit a straight-and-narrow path which offends nobody when it comes to politics. And it’s not working, either – Stephen Colbert‘s The Late Show regularly hammers Fallon’s show in the ratings, on what used to be a million-strong gap in Fallon’s favour.

Now, in a long feature for The New York Times, Fallon has admitted the famous hair-ruffling segment missed the mark, and says he wishes that he had addressed it on-air.

Mr. Fallon acknowledges now that the Trump interview was a setback, if not quite a mistake, and he has absorbed at least a portion of the anger that was directed at him by critics and online detractors.

“They have a right to be mad,” a chastened Mr. Fallon said in an interview this month. “If I let anyone down, it hurt my feelings that they didn’t like it. I got it.”

He also claimed that it wasn’t his intention to ‘soften’ Trump’s image with the interview – he wanted to ‘minimise’ him. “I didn’t do it to humanise him,” he said. “I almost did it to minimise him. I didn’t think that would be a compliment: ‘He did the thing that we all wanted to do.’ It all started going crazy.” 

But this fluff piece in the Times doesn’t seem to be doing Fallon any favours. Basically, people are kinda off him – in a time when TV personalities are either scoring points off Trump or raking it in by supporting him, someone like Fallon who tries to just be a nice, blandly funny guy in the sensible centre doesn’t cut it.

There’s a lesson here. Do not pat Trump’s head for ratings. Unless you really want a lengthy NYT profile with lots of staged dramatic photos of you. In that case, do it.

Source: New York Times.

Photo: The Tonight Show.