On Wednesday night, Jimmy Kimmel continued his extraordinary excoriation of the latest Republican effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. That effort is known as Graham-Cassidy, because it is sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, and Bill Cassidy, of Louisiana.
It is the second night in a row Kimmel has devoted the monologue portion of his prime-time ABC talk show, Jimmy Kimmel Live, to a detailed and impassioned criticism of Graham-Cassidy, which healthcare reporter Sarah Kliff of Vox calls “the most radical” assault yet on the ACA, President Obama’s biggest legislative accomplishment. Sen. Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, told NPR the bill was “crappy.”
Despite the reservations of some Republicans about Graham-Cassidy—which would, in essence, involve a shift of funding and decision-making to states—some on the right attacked Kimmel’s performance on Tuesday night, depicting it as typical grandstanding by a Hollywood liberal. “I have a blood clot in my lungs and my wife has cancer,” tweeted conservative commentator Erick Erickson. “I’m sure the media will give me Kimmel level moral authority to oppose Obamacare.”
But that only served to sharpen Kimmel’s outrage. He continued his criticism of Cassidy, who’d complained to Chris Cuomo of CNN hours before, “I’m sorry that he does not understand” the legislation. Channeling the spirit of The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart, Kimmel used the clip of Cassidy on CNN as a brutally effective rhetorical weapon against the Senator:
Well, then, help me out, which part don’t I understand? Is it the part where you cut $240 billion from federal health care assistance? Am I not understanding the part where states would be allowed to let insurance companies price you out of coverage for having pre-existing conditions? Maybe I don’t understand the part of your bill in which federal funding disappears completely after 2026? Or maybe it was the part where the plans are no longer required to pay for essential health benefits like maternity care or pediatric visits?
But there’s always been something endearingly boyish about Kimmel, too. Right after his lengthy evisceration of Graham-Cassidy, he illustrated the bill’s purportedly dangerous trajectory with a slow-motion video of a New York Yankees batter pelted in the groin by an errant pitch.
Kimmel’s passion about healthcare is rooted in his own experience: His son Billy was born this past spring with a heart condition that required extensive medical attention. Kimmel emerged acutely aware of the enormous costs Americans less fortunate than he frequently incur when dealing with life-threatening illnesses.
It was days after Kimmel discussed his son’s condition—and the successful surgeries that have helped correct the heart defect—that Cassidy went on CNN and concocted what he called “the Jimmy Kimmel rule,” which holds that any Republican healthcare reform cannot represent a wholesale retraction of ACA benefits, such as the expansion of Medicaid benefits and coverage for pre-existing conditions.
By most accounts, Cassidy’s bill violates his own rule.
In another move reminiscent of Stewart, Kimmel proceeded to engage in criticism of right-wing media, Fox News in particular. His target was Brian Kilmeade of Fox & Friends, the morning show beloved by President Donald J. Trump. On Wednesday morning, Kilmeade trotted out the “media elites” label to criticize Kimmel for Tuesday’s monologue on Graham-Cassidy.
Kimmel’s retort was breathtakingly pointed and personal.
This is a guy, Brian Kilmeade, who whenever I see him, kisses my ass like a little boy meetin’ Batman…He follows me on Twitter. He asked me to write a blurb for his book, which I did. He calls my agent looking for projects. He’s dying to be a member of the Hollywood elite. The only reason he’s not a member of the Hollywood elite is ’cause nobody will hire him to be one.
“Oh, I’ll pound you when I see you,” the native of decided non-elitist Brooklyn threatened Kilmeade.
Kimmel has received plenty of accolades for his healthcare monologues this week. “Kimmel more effective than Dems on healthcare,” said a CNN headline. Slate was even more effusive: “Jimmy Kimmel Tears Into Everyone Who Came After Him for Speaking Out About Health Care, and It’s Glorious.”
But despite the praise, and the surely flattering comparisons to Stewart, Kimmel clearly dislikes having to talk about politics. On Tuesday, for example, he apologized for discussing a topic as “boring” as healthcare. Back in February, he declared a “Trump Free Tuesday.”
That was before Billy’s birth. Accordingly, Kimmel concluded Wednesday’s show with an image at once prosaic and crucial: the phone numbers of five senators whose votes could decide the future of the American healthcare system.