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Jimmy Fallon: Twitter reaction to Trump hair muss cut deep

Commentary: The late-night host says even one bad word on Twitter upsets him. And when he tousled the then-candidate's hair, Twitter really let him have it.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


The moment that enraged Twitter.

The Tonight Show/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

It was a hair-raising moment that became an eyebrow-raising one.

In September, Donald Trump appeared on "The Tonight Show," where host Jimmy Fallon playfully mussed the not-yet president's hair.

For some, it was a charming gesture. For others, it was a witless decision that helped humanize someone who called Mexicans rapists, wanted to ban Muslims and planned to build a wall around America.

On Wednesday, Fallon addressed the event for the first time in an interview with the New York Times.

"I didn't do it to humanize him," he told the Times. "I almost did it to minimize him."

It almost worked.

Fallon insisted he didn't think his viewers would be upset because he didn't think messing up Trump's hair was something that everyone wanted to do.

To which a critic might mutter: "Precisely."

Criticism spread quickly around the web, as criticism tends to. And in which part of the web do stars congregate? Why, Twitter.

"I'm a people pleaser," Fallon told the Times. "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."

To some, his explanation may sound naive. Trump has rarely been a just-trying-to-have-fun zone. And the hair mussing became a symbol for the whole Trump interview, which itself was on the light side as late-night shows tend to be.

Fallon acknowledged that he stopped visiting Twitter for a while and couldn't face the news because he'd become part of it. He also said he should've addressed the incident earlier.

Worse, CBS's "The Late Show" has now overtaken "The Tonight Show" in the ever-fickle ratings. (Editors' note: CBS is CNET's parent company.) As "The Late Show" host Stephen Colbert has become stridently, rudely anti-Trump, Fallon has been left looking like an enabler.

The brutal highs and lows of ratings can become more extreme and much more personal on Twitter. The highs -- when everyone loves your wit -- are only matched by the lows -- when it feels like the whole world has decided you're worse than, oh, Jimmy Fallon.

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