A brief history of late-night hosts apologizing

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LOS ANGELES, CA – AUGUST 29: Host Jimmy Fallon speaks onstage at the 62nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards held at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on August 29, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Jimmy Fallon infamous hair ruffle

Imagine a headline reading “Late-night host apologizes for playfully ruffling another man’s hair.” Out of context, Jimmy Fallon’s great sin seems absolutely bonkers and innocent compared to his fellow host’s transgressions. But when the man was divisive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and the host with a golden opportunity to call him out appeared to squander it to play with his hair, a little ruffling became something else entirely.

Vanity Fair claimed he lost all credibility. Twitter joked at his expense. “Looking forward to Jimmy Fallon waits in line for the new iPhone with Kim Jong Un,” said one user. Others said the move had him “looking like an enabler.”

It didn’t even occur to the Tonight Show host that anyone would be upset, according to a New York Times profile. Everyone wanted to get to the bottom of Trump’s mysterious hairstyle. He didn’t mean anything by it. He was just having fun. If that sounds like a laundry list of explanations in danger of becoming excuses, it’s because it probably is.

Fallon was apologetic without apologizing, which is a pretty clear indicator that he still doesn’t understand why people were upset to begin with. He has, however, resumed mocking the Trumpster mercilessly.