Hillary Clinton appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon on Monday evening, an appearance which was precipitated by Donald Trump’s appearance with the late night comic last Thursday. Both programs were ratings bonanzas with Trump’s program averaging a 2.6 rating share and Clinton’s program averaging a 2.8 rating share, the best rating The Tonight Show has had in five months. Clinton also scored higher ratings than Trump among adults who are between 18-49 with a 0.9 rating vs. Trump who garnered a 0.7 rating with this age group.
While Hillary Clinton’s Tonight Show visit may have marginally defeated Trump’s in the ratings war, the program featuring the Democratic nominee for president was far less entertaining than that of her Republican challenger. With the exception of few moments, such as Fallon’s opening the interview by wearing a surgical mask and using hand sanitizer in reference to Clinton’s recent bout with pneumonia, the interview was not that funny. Fallon also had another good moment when he handed Clinton the bag which Trump “left in his dressing room” which contained a picture of Vladimir Putin in a heart shaped frame, a CD of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” and an actual bag of softballs, a reference to the media accusing Fallon of doing a” softball interview “with Trump. Why the media expects a late night comic to conduct hard hitting interviews is a question for another day.
While Fallon certainly was trying, Clinton did not appear to want to stay within the confines of a humorous exchange for very long. Clinton quickly steered a conversation that started off about the importance of her legacy as the first female nominee for president to one where she was attacking Trump. She went after Trump for “refusing to admit that President Obama is an American.” She also criticized him for his past comments where he referred to a Federal Judge, Gonzolo Curiel, who is an American of Mexican descent as a Mexican. Clinton also brought up Trump’s exchange with the Khans, the Muslim Gold Star family who criticized Trump’s immigration policy. The irony of Clinton’s Trump rampage was that she opened her conversation with Fallon by saying that she wanted focus on the issues and dispense with the rhetoric.
Politicians and political candidates appear on entertainment programs to showcase their human side. Bill Clinton famously played the sax on The Arsenio Hall Show over twenty years ago. Clinton missed a tremendous opportunity to connect with the American people on a different level, to show them that she has a sense of humor and that she doesn’t take herself too seriously. Last fall, she appeared on Saturday Live as a bartender in a humorous skit. Recently, she appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live where she famously opened a jar of pickles to demonstrate her health. Of course the pickle jar episode is not that funny anymore now that we know that Clinton could have been suffering from pneumonia when she taped the program.
No one is saying that Hillary Clinton needed to mess up her hair, but she would have done herself a better service if she treated the Jimmy Fallon interview as exactly what it was, entertainment. Clinton will have an opportunity to go after her opponent in an appropriate forum, namely the upcoming September 26 debate.
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