Donald Trump will visit “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” on Thursday, just as the presidential race enters its final inning.
This will be Trump’s third appearance on “The Tonight Show” as a candidate and comes just a few weeks after NBC Entertainment Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt condemned the former reality star in a message shared on his personal Facebook account.
In the post from August, Greenblatt described Trump, former host of “The Apprentice,” as a “pompous businessman turned reality TV star (whose show consistently ran LAST in its time period, by the way) who thinks speaking his mind is refreshing.” Greenblatt also denounced Trump as “corrosive and toxic” and “demented,” and worried about the politician’s lingering effect on public discourse.
The post was written in reaction to a column by Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times arguing that Trump’s harsh rhetoric was “mainstreaming hate” and encouraging bullying in schools.
In recent campaign cycles, it’s become routine for presidential candidates to make the late-night rounds, and Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, will also sit down with Fallon for a third time next week.
But the Republican’s upcoming visit to the top-rated “Tonight Show” in the closing weeks of a heated election marks the latest chapter in his complicated relationship with NBC, and may provide fodder for those who say the network is maintaining a double standard when it comes to Trump. NBC declined to comment.
Last summer, after Trump made derogatory statements about Mexican immigrants, NBC severed its long-standing business relationship with the real-estate mogul, whose reality series “The Apprentice” debuted in 2004. “At NBC, respect and dignity for all people are cornerstones of our values,” read a statement from the network.
A few months later, NBC came under fire when Trump was asked to host “Saturday Night Live,” a rarity for an actively campaigning presidential candidate. Despite pressure from Latino advocacy groups and a flurry of media criticism, “SNL” declined to budge. Ultimately, Trump appeared onscreen for only 12 minutes of the November episode, which garnered “SNL” its best ratings in four years.
Greenblatt defended the decision during a testy session with reporters at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in January.
“If we were in the business of never having anyone guest on the network that had views that were different than our views, we would be out of business,” he said. “Love it or not, he’s one of the most important political figures of our time.”
At an industry event in May, Paul Telegdy, president of alternative and reality programming at NBC, acknowledged the network’s role in Trump’s political rise, arguing that “The Apprentice” had turned the real-estate mogul into “a phenomenal television personality.”
“What’s going on demonstrates, if nothing else, the enormous amount of responsibility that goes with the job of putting out the version of someone that we do in a TV show,” he said.
Meanwhile, the network’s news division is defending Matt Lauer for his allegedly preferential treatment of Trump in a televised forum last week. The “Today” anchor was widely criticized for failing to challenge Trump on false claims about his supposed opposition to the Iraq war, and for asking what many considered softball questions compared with those directed at Clinton.
Trump is also unlikely to face tough questions on “The Tonight Show,” whose host Jimmy Fallon is known for cultivating a feel-good vibe through celebrity-friendly games, musical spoofs and spot-on impressions, not for his adversarial interviews.