David Letterman Says He Would Have Gone After Donald Trump

Screengrab via YouTube.
Screengrab via YouTube.

Right or wrong, Jimmy Fallon got a lot of heat for playfully riffling Donald Trump’s hair instead of interrogating him on his plans to take out ISIS when he appeared on The Tonight Show in September. There is a small pool of retired late night hosts who think they could have done better, and David Letterman doesn’t hold back on how he wouldn’t have held back.

In an interview with The New York Times, Letterman explains that he used to have Trump as a guest a lot, because he enjoyed his blowhard New Yorker “persona.” He apparently thought that when Trump came out of the campaign gate with the message that Mexicans are rapists, someone would take him aside and explain that’s not an appropriate political platform. But no one did.

When Trump went on to mock a reporter with congenital musculoskeletal disorder, and refused to apologize, Letterman realized there wasn’t much left to joke about, saying, “Because if you can do that in a national forum, that says to me that you are a damaged human being. If you can do that, and not apologize, you’re a person to be shunned.”


When asked about how he’d handle Donald Trump now, Letterman is free to imagine the circumstances in which Donald Trump would allow such an an interview:

If I had a show, I would have gone right after him. I would have said something like, “Hey, nice to see you. Now, let me ask you: what gives you the right to make fun of a human who is less fortunate, physically, than you are?” And maybe that’s where it would have ended. Because I don’t know anything about politics. I don’t know anything about trade agreements. I don’t know anything about China devaluing the yuan. But if you see somebody who’s not behaving like any other human you’ve known, that means something. They need an appointment with a psychiatrist. They need a diagnosis and they need a prescription.

Letterman has directly confronted Trump about his hypocrisy in the past, and for people who defended Jimmy Fallon by saying he was just doing his job, Letterman’s jabs definitely made for good television:

Contributing Writer, writing my first book for the Dial Press called The Lonely Hunter, follow me on Twitter @alutkin

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One thing Letterman was damn good at was turning a fun interview into a dark and brutal stabbing if the mood took him.