In Defense of Jimmy Kimmel: the Power of Comedy in Politics
Late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel came under fire last week for opposing the Graham-Cassidy bill on Jimmy Kimmel Live. He skimmed over the health care proposal, describing its drawbacks. Bill Cassidy, the bill’s co-writer guaranteed this healthcare bill would allow people to receive the treatments they needed, even if they “go over a certain amount” of money. Instead, the bill would cut benefits for those with pre-existing conditions and reallocate millions of dollars in healthcare funding to individual states. Kimmel urged his watchers to become more informed and take action against a bill that would take their health care away. Predominantly right-wing critics of his, such as Chris Christie, dismissed Kimmel’s remarks as uninformed and polarizing and recommended that he stick to entertainment instead of politics. “This is not my area of expertise,” said Kimmel himself shortly after the segment aired. Even so, he is completely justified to discuss this bill, along with politics in general, on his show.
In May, Kimmel revealed a deeply personal and moving story in which he detailed how his son, diagnosed with congenital heart disease, had to receive surgery just days after birth. He praised Obamacare, noting the importance of health care coverage for families no matter their income and ability to pay. Soon after, Cassidy came onto Kimmel’s show and promised that his bill would cover infants and guarantee them the care they needed. Following his child’s surgery and a promise from Senator Cassidy, the battle over adequate health care has become deeply personal for Kimmel. After capturing the attention and support of Americans across the country who can sympathize with his son’s situation, this has become a frequent subject on his show. Thus, it is completely understandable that Kimmel would offer his input and critique on a bill that would affect him directly after the harrowing experience he had. It would be more surprising, as a matter of fact, if he swept this issue under the rug instead of addressing the ongoing battle to “repeal and replace” Obamacare.
Even if critics believe that Kimmel’s personal matters should be kept separate from his show, there are other arguments that support his political discussions. Many Americans, especially those belonging to younger generations, turn to comedy and late-night talk shows as their primary news outlet. Viewers tend to believe that these shows do a better job of holding politicians and organizations accountable and aren’t afraid to present the truth. At a time when “fake news” stories pop up on social media feeds almost daily, many believe that news networks are attempting to push an agenda onto their viewers and have thus turned to other sources for updates on current events. Just because stories are being delivered in a nontraditional, more casual manner than news programming doesn’t mean that they’re unreliable. Multiple sources have fact-checked Kimmel’s statements and acknowledged that while some of his claims were exaggerated for effect and entertainment, he is generally correct. He even cited multiple health-care groups, such as the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society, to back up his case.
Another major reason why primarily entertainment-focused sources are such a popular source of news is that humor makes unpleasant facts easier to stomach. At a time when every news story is about a natural disaster or the largely unpopular president, humor is effective at breaking the tension. While traditional news outlets describe current events in a dry and rather depressing way, shows like Jimmy Kimmel Live are an effective way to stay updated while having the occasional satirical laugh.
Because of his personal stake in this situation and the overall effectiveness and popularity of late-night talk shows as news outlets, Jimmy Kimmel should continue to discuss political events such as the Graham-Cassidy Bill. Celebrities like Kimmel have every right to express their political beliefs. In fact, them doing so is helping their fans stay informed and can even inspire them to take action.
Kathrine Voronkov is a third-year business economics major and political science minor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.