Joe Biden Goes on Jimmy Fallon, With Both Looking to Win Over Doubters

President Joe Biden will make his first appearance on late-night TV since taking office when he joins Jimmy Fallon for a virtual interview on Friday—and both men may have something to prove.

Although the president will not appear on The Tonight Show in person, his team may be hoping Biden can reach out to voters more effectively in the relaxed environment of late-night TV, than through speeches and White House press conferences.

It will be the first time Fallon has interviewed a sitting commander-in-chief since Barack Obama left office in 2017.

Former President Donald Trump eschewed the late-night shows during his administration. However, some Trump critics are still unhappy with Fallon for an interview during the 2016 campaign.

Fallon famously tousled Trump's hair during what many considered a softball interview. The then Republican candidate had made a number of controversial statements on the campaign trail, particularly about immigrants, and some viewers expressed anger and disappointment with Fallon for "normalizing" him.

In a 2018 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Fallon said he regretted how he had handled Trump's appearance on the show.

"I'm sorry. I don't want to make anyone angry—I never do and I never will. It's all in the fun of the show. I made a mistake. I'm sorry if I made anyone mad. And, looking back, I would do it differently," he told the Reporter.

Friday's interview could represent an opportunity for Fallon to win over viewers who still have doubts about him or his interviewing style.

Nonetheless, the White House is unlikely to expect a grilling from Fallon and could be hoping that the interview reaches a wide audience, including younger voters. If any clips from the show go viral on social media, the administration might consider that mission accomplished.

Former President Obama made good use of the late-night stage between 2009 and 2017, appearing on Tonight as well as The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Real Time with Bill Maher, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee and Jimmy Kimmel Live!

His 2009 appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno was the first time a sitting president had appeared on a show of that kind. A segment from Obama's 2016 appearance with Fallon entitled "Slow Jam the News with President Obama" now has over 18 million views on YouTube.

Biden's late-night debut comes as he's struggling with stubbornly low approval ratings amid concerns about inflation and the state of the economy

Poll tracker FiveThirtyEight, which tracks Biden's approval based on a variety of polls and its own system of pollster ratings, gave the president 42.7 percent approval as of December 10, while his disapproval stood at 50.8 percent.

Although a TV appearance alone is unlikely to move the president's approval rating, it represents an opportunity to win over a potentially doubtful public in a relatively friendly forum.

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon will air on NBC at 11:35 p.m. ET on Friday.

Composite Image Shows Biden and Fallon
This composite photo shows President Joe Biden and Jimmy Fallon, host of The Tonight Show. Biden will make his first late-night appearance as president in an interview with Fallon on Friday. Getty Images