On Thursday night, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump appeared on The Tonight Show to pal around with host Jimmy Fallon, as anyone with a movie to promote or a record to sell might. If this were any other candidate in any other election, the comedic flyby would have been just another Jimmy Fallon segment, dumped on to you YouTube the next morning for the curious or bored to discover.
But Trump isn't any other candidate, and this election isn't another election but a supercollider of claims and insults. Trump arrived at The Tonight Show riding a wave of controversy that includes (but is not limited to) accusations of mishandled charitable donations, pandering to white supremacists, provoking the Obama "birther" movement, disrespect toward multiple war heroes, fanning American Islamophobia, mischaracterizing the country's black communities, praising North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and swiping at his opponent Hillary Clinton with anti-Semitic and misogynistic dog-whistling. Objectively, Trump is a loaded subject. Fallon, being Fallon, used his time with the candidate to answer a burning question: does Trump wear a toupée?
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Fallon veered into politics -- or opened the door for Trump to stump -- by breeching the subject of the candidate's relationship with Putin. "I don't know him, Trump said. "I know nothing about him, really. I just think if we got along with Russia is not a bad thing. I don't like him, I don't dislike him ... I'm [just] going to make great deals for our country." The crowd went wild.
Trump is already at the convergence of entertainment and politics, a reality TV entrepreneur whose outsider status undercut the seasoned Republican competition. His post-nomination Tonight Show appearance -- complete with The Apprentice mention -- only further blurred his showman role. But was it Fallon's responsibility to question, fact-check, and go hard on Trump in a setting known for lip-sync battles and egg Russian roulette? Or, if a serious interview was never in the cards, was it then irresponsible for the late-night host to entertain Trump during a delicate political moment? Pundits from every walk of life thought so, and David Simon, the creator of The Wire, had a few of the harshest words for the host.
Additional criticism of Fallon quickly erupted.
Trump's supporters also burst through the commotion, finding more enjoyment in his critics' squirms than in any of Fallon's gags.
Then there were the observational devil's advocates, who didn't expect much from a Trump-Fallon late-night segment in the first place -- and wondered why anyone would.
Finally, there were the people looking ahead to Miley Cyrus' Friday Tonight Show appearance. Never change, MileySourceNews. Never change.
Will Fallon take the criticism to heart? We'll find out this coming Monday, when Hillary Clinton makes her pre-debates Tonight Show appearance. In the meantime, here's Norm Macdonald, who should actually run for president.
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