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Jimmy Fallon didn't mean to 'normalize' President Trump during that infamous hair-ruffling interview

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 6/20/2018

a man wearing a suit and tie sitting on a bench © Andrew Lipovsky / AP Jimmy Fallon’s worst professional day came in front of the whole world: on the Sept. 15, 2016 episode of “The Tonight Show,” the late show host reached out and ruffled the hair of future President Trump.

At the time, Trump, the Republican nominee, was viewed as a longshot for the White House. Less than two years later, with Trump in the White House, the softball questions Fallon lobbed at the real estate mogul-turned-politician look worse. But even in the moments after, the optics of the cheerful petting were off.

"I did not do it to 'normalize' him or to say I believe in his political beliefs or any of that stuff," Fallon told the Hollywood Reporter.

That’s what it looked like, though, for the apolitical talk show host, viewers and pundits said in the days following. Even “Saturday Night Live,” Fallon’s old stomping grounds, got in on the action.

"It just got bigger and out of control," the funnyman told the Hollywood Reporter. "I saw other comedians from other shows making fun of me on Twitter and I go, 'Okay, now I'm just gonna get off.’ They know the show. I'm just doing five hours a week. I get in at 10 in the morning, I work 'til seven at night and I'm just trying to make a funny show.”

To his friends and colleagues, Fallon insisted they should have known him better.

“‘You know the grind and you know me. Of all the people in the world, I'm one of the good people — I mean, really. You don't even know what you're talking about if you say that I'm evil or whatever,'” he said.

“But 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.'"

In the 17 months since Trump’s inauguration, Fallon and the rest of the late night hosts have embraced the political climate and taken on the President nightly, although some are harsher and more direct than others.

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