NEW YORK — Jimmy Fallon is opening up about the personal anguish he felt following the backlash to his now-infamous hair mussing appearance with Donald Trump.
The host of “The Tonight Show” tells The Hollywood Reporter he “made a mistake” and apologized “if I made anyone mad.” He adds that he “would do it differently” looking back on the Sept. 15, 2016 episode.
Trump opponents criticized Fallon for a cringeworthy interview only weeks before the election where Fallon playfully stroked Trump’s hair. Fallon’s show eventually lost more than one-fifth of its audience and its late-night crown to Stephen Colbert’s new and more political “The Late Show” for CBS.
Fallon said in a Hollywood Reporter podcast that he wasn’t approving of Trump or his beliefs just because he joked with him: “I did not do it to ‘normalize’ him or to say I believe in his political beliefs or any of that stuff.”
The talk show host has discussed the episode before, explaining in a 2017 interview with Vanity Fair that he was just “trying to have fun” with Trump, but revealed that he was “devastated” to learn that people had a negative reaction. He also told The New York Times: “If I let anyone down, it hurt my feelings that they didn’t like it. I got it.”
But in the podcast, Fallon reveals the backstage fallout to the criticism that he had been too soft on Trump. “It’s tough for morale,” he said. “You go, ‘Alright, we get it. I heard you. You made me feel bad. So now what? Are you happy? I’m depressed. Do you want to push me more? What do you want me to do? You want me to kill myself? What would make you happy? Get over it.'”
He said he works hard and is one of the “good people,” but faced a “gang-mentality” online. “People just jump on the train, and some people don’t even want to hear anything else. They’re like, ‘No, you did that!’ You go, ‘Well, just calm down and just look at the whole thing and actually see my body of work.'”