Now that the Graham-Cassidy bill, long the target of Jimmy Kimmel’s ire, seems to have finally died, the host took a victory lap on Monday night, recapping his uncharacteristically political crusade against the bill before exclaiming, like a modern Cincinnatus nobly returning to his farm, “Now I can go back to talking about the Kardashians!” But the final weekend of Graham-Cassidy madness was still an emotional roller coaster for the late night host, who was attacked over the weekend by the usual suspects at Fox News. At issue was a tweet Kimmel sent thanking John McCain for coming out against the bill:
Fox and Friends was on the case, tut-tutting at a giant picture of Kimmel’s tweet—“Who says, I’m not a serious advocate for health care reform? Look at all those chicken wings!” Kimmel remarked upon seeing his hot-wing-festooned profile picture—and threw gasoline on the fire by using his show to personally thank Susan Collins for announcing she, too, would vote against the bill. “Maine needs affordable health care more than almost any state—you know, the sewers up there are filled with child-eating clowns,” Kimmel noted. But the host was less easygoing about right-wingers who attacked him for talking to Chuck Schumer while researching the bill. Here’s how Fox and Friends spun it:
Think about it. For months, a network evening show has been talking to one side of the aisle to get their talking points on a bill. If you want confirmation that the so-called mainstream media is actually the opposition party, in bed with the Democrats, there you have it. How much talk has his staff had with Senator Graham or Cassidy or the Majority Leader? Probably none, maybe some, let us know, Jimmy Kimmel Show, if you want to let us know that you talked to both sides. But the reporting is, “We’re gonna get the talking points from Chuck and Nancy, and we’re gonna fight this bill through the media. It’s no surprise to those of us who feel like the deck is stacked against real reform in Washington.
Bill Cassidy, remember, had an utterly disastrous appearance on Jimmy Kimmel while planning his bill; it’s not like they never talked. Unfortunately, as Kimmel explains, his critics are not entirely wrong about how the whole thing came to pass:
It would be easy for me to dismiss this as some kind of right-wing hysteria, but he does have a point. I’d like to make a confession tonight. I think I need to come clean. Here’s what happened. So my wife and I were worried about health care. We didn’t like what the Republicans were doing. So we decided to have a baby with congenital heart defects. Okay? And then once we had that going for us, I went on TV, I spoke out, and we may have stopped Cassidy-Graham. I still can’t believe we pulled it off, but we did.
Kimmel took one last opportunity to review how utterly disingenuous the Republican defenses of the Graham-Cassidy bill were all along, with another reminder that, chicken wings or no, his qualifications to speak out about this weren’t really at issue:
You know, since I started speaking about this, I’ve been fact-checked against Bill Cassidy by at least six different organizations. Every one of them came down on my side. Every major health organization in the United States is on my side, every major charity that has to do with health and Medicare is on my side, because the facts were on my side—it has nothing to do with me. It’s just a matter of what’s true and what isn’t true.
It will be interesting to see if Kimmel is serious about his retreat to making jokes about pop culture, or if he’ll stay engaged with politics going forward—he spoke out strongly after Charlottesville, so he’s not strictly a one-issue guy. It seems likely we’re going to be facing many “matters of what’s true and what isn’t true” in the future, and both Kimmel’s sincerity about his beliefs and utter unwillingness to take any bullshit pushback from Fox News would really come in handy. But whether he ever has another stint as the moral voice of the nation, there is something sublime about this chapter: Stevie Wonder dedicated a song—one of Kimmel’s favorites—to his son, whose birth was the start of the whole affair, at his concert Saturday night. But the song was “Isn’t She Lovely.” Sometimes life really is sublime.