Bozell & Graham Column: Jimmy Fallon, Democrat Political Asset
The Obamas have had few more obsequious media allies than NBC's Jimmy Fallon. Now that he's taking over the hallowed ground of "The Tonight Show," Fallon's proven ability to spread his reach into viral videos on YouTube promises to become even more politically potent.
Fallon's Obama-friendly sketches and interviews have become immediate "news" grist for the Comcast corps at NBC and MSNBC. The same sensation happens when Fallon is ripping into a Republican.
Just as NBC and MSNBC were tearing Gov. Chris Christie apart over "Bridgegate," Fallon joined this political crusade by bringing on liberal rock star Bruce Springsteen for a jokey version of the hit "Born to Run."
Fallon and Springsteen sang clumsy lyrics that Christie was "killing the working man who is stuck in Governor Chris Christie's Fort Lee, New Jersey traffic jam." The YouTube video went viral, while the media played it up as another nail in the coffin they were building for Christie's career.
The NBC press agents are trying to paper over Fallon's political tilt. A Parade Magazine profile on Feb. 16 oozed that Fallon "persuaded Brad Pitt to yodel, President Obama and Mitt Romney to 'slow jam the news,' and Tom Cruise to crack raw eggs on his noggin." But why pretend?
In 2012, Fallon's "slow jam" with Obama featured the president trying to sell his allegedly wonderful plans for college loans, and Fallon followed up by uttering in a low voice, "Awww yeah. You should listen to the president. Or as I like to call him, the Preezy of the United Steezy."
After Obama trotted out campaign attacks against Republicans, accusing them for raising interest rates on students to keep taxes low for billionaires, Fallon added: "Mmm, mmm, mmm. The Barack Ness Monster ain't buying it." Singer Tariq Trotter then sang in tribute: "He's the POTUS with the mostest!"
Fallon ended this spectacle later by stating the ridiculous: "We don't take sides politically on this show." It's worse than that. Obama invited himself. Fallon excitedly described on "Today" afterward how "the White House called us" about doing the skit. Matt Lauer asked: "He booked himself on your show?" Fallon gushed: "The president booked himself."
Try to imagine a conservative Republican attempting to pull this off.
Fallon has been especially eager to help Michelle Obama promote her image. On Feb. 7, 2012, he aired a "Let's Move" video in the East Room of the White House, featuring a slow-motion potato sack race with the first lady to the soundtrack of "Chariots of Fire." (She won, of course.) On Feb. 22, 2013, Fallon dressed as a woman to dance with Michelle and illustrate "The Evolution of Mom Dancing." That video went viral. During that show, Fallon even asked if Michelle would run with Hillary Clinton for president: "Can I ask you another thing to think about - I said it here first - Dream Team, Michelle and Hillary '16."
That suggestion actually isn't new. As the Democratic convention closed in 2012, he performed a James Taylor impression on his show, singing the hit "Fire and Rain" with the joke title "Romney and Bain." The Huffington Post boasted: "It's also a pretty explicit endorsement of the Obama campaign, with the lyric, 'So I'll prob'ly vote Obama again,' right there in the refrain." Not only that, but Fallon sang that in 2016, he'd vote for "the Dream Team, Michelle and Hillary."
When Romney appeared to "slow jam the news" a few weeks ago, Fallon just "had" to make fun of his gaffes. Romney explained: "I'm not running again. There are a lot of great candidates for 2016, and I'll be supporting the Republican nominee 100 percent." Fallon shot back: "Don't you mean 47 percent?" Romney replied, "That's a low blow - but it's pretty funny." Fallon said, "I had to do it."
He's right. That's what comedians do. So why can't he do likewise with Obama?
Romney's response was classy and brings up the obvious point just made in a New York magazine interview by longtime "Saturday Night Live" boss Lorne Michaels, who is helping to run both the Fallon show and the new Seth Meyers show after him on NBC. When asked about the rules for political satire, Michaels replied: "Republicans are easier for us than Democrats. Democrats tend to take it personally; Republicans think it's funny."
Republicans can laugh at themselves, even when they're being mocked. Not Democrats. They have thin skin because they expect every comedian to fall at their feet - like Fallon does with the Obamas.