The “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon apologized to his staff on Thursday afternoon after a news article described the set of his show as being a “toxic workplace.”
Mr. Fallon, whose show has not aired new episodes for more than four months because of the writers’ strike, told the staff during a virtual meeting: “It’s embarrassing, and I feel so bad.”
The article, published by Rolling Stone, said 14 former staff members and two current employees alleged that Mr. Fallon’s “erratic behavior” had helped to fuel an unhealthy work environment.
“If I ever mistreated anybody, or made you feel bad, that was not my goal,” he said in the meeting, according to a staff member who was present. “I want this show to be fun. It should be inclusive for everybody. It should be funny. It should be the best show, the best people. I just wanted to say I miss you guys.”
NBC released a statement on Thursday saying: “We are incredibly proud of ‘The Tonight Show,’ and providing a respectful working environment is a top priority. As in any workplace, we have had employees raise issues; those have been investigated, and action has been taken where appropriate.”
On Friday, a spokeswoman for NBCUniversal said Mr. Fallon and the show were not under investigation because the allegations in the article were years old and had been addressed by the company.
Rolling Stone reported that during a taping with the comedian Jerry Seinfeld, Mr. Fallon had scolded a staff member holding a cue card. The article went on to report that Mr. Seinfeld had forced Mr. Fallon to apologize to the employee, and that other staff members had described the moment as “uncomfortable.”
Mr. Seinfeld sent a statement to Rolling Stone after the article was published that said: “This is so stupid. I remember this moment quite well. I teased Jimmy about a flub, and we all had a fun laugh about how rarely Jimmy is thrown off. It was not uncomfortable at all. Jimmy and I still occasionally recall it and laugh. Idiotic twisting of events.”
Mr. Fallon took over hosting duties of “The Tonight Show,” the storied NBC institution that has existed since the 1950s, in 2014. His show immediately scored big ratings, a trend that continued even after CBS installed Stephen Colbert as David Letterman’s replacement on “The Late Show” in September 2015.
Mr. Fallon’s light-touch approach to the show — with an emphasis on singing, dancing and playing games — seemed to match the national mood.
But not long after Mr. Fallon tousled the hair of Donald J. Trump, who was then a Republican presidential candidate, in a 2016 interview, his show’s ratings began to slide.
In early 2017, just as Mr. Trump took over the White House, viewership for Mr. Colbert’s “The Late Show” eclipsed “The Tonight Show,” as Mr. Colbert and many late-night hosts began delivering pointed political monologues, a course that Mr. Fallon shied away from. Though viewership for all late-night shows has fallen in recent years, Mr. Colbert has continued to best Mr. Fallon.
During the ratings slide, Mr. Fallon has gone through a number of showrunner changes.
Mr. Fallon, as well as other late-night hosts, including Mr. Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers and John Oliver, began broadcasting a podcast together last week called “Strike Force Five.” Proceeds from the show are being given to their out-of-work staff members as the writers’ strike has kept their shows dark for 129 days and counting.
Chris Miller, who has been the “Tonight Show” showrunner since 2022, sent an email to staff members on Thursday shortly after the Rolling Stone article was published.
“While I know the reporter reached out to many of you before the piece ran, I don’t believe what’s written is reflective of the overall culture of our extraordinary team that I’m so lucky and proud to work with every day,” he wrote. “The place described in the article is not the place I know. Still, it’s disappointing to see something published that does not capture the positive and inclusive environment I believe we have created together.”