It’s impossible to overstate just how symbolically awful Jimmy Fallon’s September Tonight Show interview with then-presidential candidate Donald Trump became in the weeks and months after it aired, and if Fallon’s current ratings struggles against Late Show’s Stephen Colbert are any indication, his preference for silly games and late night escapism have proven to be a huge setback for him now that we’re experiencing a Trump presidency. While Fallon has mostly kept quiet about his infamous Trump hair-tousle, he opened up about the experience in a candid new interview with The New York Times, where he said critics “have a right to be mad” but he doesn’t want to be “bullied into not being me, and not doing what I think is funny.” Here’s an excerpt from the interview where Fallon looks back on the online backlash to the Trump appearance:
For Mr. Fallon, who lives a portion of every day online, the hate felt inescapable. “I go, I just can’t read Twitter,” he said. “Then I can’t read the news. I can’t read the internet.” Speaking in a quiet, tentative tone, Mr. Fallon seemed to be reliving the experience as he recounted it. “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.” But when the backlash did not subside, even after a few days, Mr. Fallon never addressed the controversy on air. “I didn’t talk about it, and I should have talked about it,” he said. “I regret that.”
Fallon says it feels like “it’s sailed” and that he’s lost the opportunity to address the incident, but ultimately all he can do is continue putting on the show he wants to do. “I tossed and turned for a couple of weeks, but I have to make people laugh,” he said. “People that voted for Trump watch my show as well.” Read the full interview over at The New York Times.