Jimmy Kimmel’s 13-minute monologue about the harrowing experience he and his wife faced last week when their newborn son Billy needed emergency open heart surgery is easily the most talked-about story of the day. But it wasn’t the late-night host’s tears that has figures like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton tweeting about it.
The last several minutes of Kimmel’s emotional speech were dedicated to a plea to President Donald Trump and the Republican-led Congress to stop trying to dismantle the Obamacare provisions that protect those like his son from being denied coverage for having a pre-existing condition like congenital heart disease. “No parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life,” he said through his tears. “It just shouldn’t happen. Not here.”
“Well said, Jimmy, That's exactly why we fought so hard for the ACA, and why we need to protect it for kids like Billy. And congratulations!” former President Obama wrote.
But if, like many Americans, you happened to hear about Kimmel’s story while watching Fox News on Tuesday, you would have no idea that his speech led to this powerful political message.
Fox & Friends spent all of 10 seconds on the story Tuesday morning, instead focusing only on the the surgery itself.
“That is heart-wrenching listening to him,” the reporter said after playing a short clip of Kimmel speaking. “The baby is home, doing well. That is the good news. Kimmel joking, saying that even the atheists were praying for him.
“I read he also joked his son was born with a bad heart and also with Jimmy's face,” co-host Steve Doocy added, laughing, and betraying the fact that he had not actually watched the video.
A couple of hours later, anchor Shannon Bream teased the story this way. “Jimmy Kimmel last night, opening up last night, getting very emotional and personal. Find out what brought that late night host to tears.” This time, they included the clip of Kimmel saying it “shouldn’t happen” here, referring to the need for universal health coverage. But when the show returned from its break, there was no mention of that aspect of his remarks.
“Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel putting aside comedy and opening up about his newborn son's open heart surgery,” Bream said after the break. “He is precious!” she added after showing the baby’s picture on screen. “Kimmel's son Billy was born April 21 but had to undergo a procedure at just three days old in Los Angeles. Thankfully all is well and Billy is now home with his parents and older sister. It's easy to forget that these guys have a real life and real pain just like everybody else, worried about their kids.”
“Beautiful son, Jimmy,” co-host Bill Hemmer added. “Here’s to Billy, stay healthy.”
Of course the “real pain” that Kimmel spoke of in his speech had less to do with his own and more to do with those who have to think about whether they can pay to save the life of their child. “If your baby is going to die and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make,” Kimmel said Monday night.
The story was covered very differently on the other two major cable news networks, where, with few exceptions, anchors made time to include the political aspects of Kimmel’s comments when they were brought up.
CNN’s Brian Stelter highlighted the fact that Kimmel said “everyone across the country, Republican, Democrat, whatever you are, should want the best possible health care in these situations.”
On the same network, host Poppy Harlow pivoted directly from a discussion about President Trump’s misleading comments on pre-existing conditions, to Kimmel’s remarks. “It's this very sticking point that elicited a surprising and emotional revelation from late-night host Jimmy Kimmel,” she said. Harlow used a long clip from Kimmel’s show as a jumping off point for a debate about the future of Obamacare.
Over on MSNBC, anchor Stephanie Ruhle also teased a story about pre-existing conditions by referencing Kimmel’s monologue. “What the gop bill really says about the issue and how people with pre-existing conditions could be priced out of proper care,” she said. “Just because you have access, doesn't mean you can afford it. That topic last night bringing late-night host Jimmy Kimmel to a very personal story and to tears.”
“I want to play for you something that's been extraordinary,” MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell said during a segment about the GOP’s latest health care bill. “It is on this subject but it is from a different venue. It is Jimmy Kimmel talking about the birth of his child, his infant, who needed emergency heart surgery and saying that people who don’t have his wealth, his resources would be facing that lifetime cap, would be facing a lot of other issues if that legislation went through.” After playing the clip, she added, “That is such a powerful testament on the whole question of pre-existing conditions.”
There are those who will say that CNN and MSNBC are “politicizing” Kimmel’s near-tragedy, but by making the political argument that culmination of his emotional speech, the late-night host unabashedly did so himself. By stripping that message from his story, Fox News has not only misinformed its viewers but also disrespected Kimmel himself.