The Media Today

The media today: Jimmy Kimmel and the politics of late night

September 21, 2017

As Republicans make a last-ditch effort to repeal and replace Barack Obama’s signature health care bill, they are facing an unlikely obstacle: Jimmy Kimmel. The ABC host has gone on the offensive over the past two nights, slamming Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy for failing to live up to Cassidy’s own “Jimmy Kimmel test,” saying that Cassidy “lied to my face.

Back in May, Kimmel made an emotional plea to legislators after his son was born with a heart condition requiring emergency surgery. Cassidy later came on Kimmel’s show and promised he wouldn’t sign any bill that allowed insurance companies to charge more for those with preexisting conditions or to cap total coverage. The current bill, of which Cassidy is a co-sponsor, would provide block grants to states and allow them to waive several Obamacare protections for those with pre-existing conditions. CNN has a summary of what’s actually in the bill.

After Kimmel’s Tuesday night clip was widely shared, Cassidy appeared on several outlets, telling CNN’s Chris Cuomo that Kimmel “does not understand” what the bill does. Kimmel responded last night with another scorching monologue, reciting a litany of facts about the proposed bill and saying the Graham Cassidy bill is, “by many accounts, the worst health care bill yet.”

Kimmel is usually far from the most outspoken of the network late-night hosts. CBS’s Stephen Colbert and NBC’s Seth Meyers have been consistent in their criticism of the Trump presidency, with Colbert riding his political focus to the top of the ratings in total viewership. Jimmy Fallon, still haunted by a much-criticized interview with then-candidate Trump, has watched his star dim. But none of the hosts have seen their commentary rise to the level of relevance of Kimmel’s health care coverage.

As traditional journalists work to explain the vital, but often complex, negotiations surrounding health-care legislation, the spotlight Kimmel shines on the issue is welcome. Below, more on the politics of late night.


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Pete Vernon is a former CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @ByPeteVernon.