Molly McNearney knew that her husband Jimmy Kimmel would address their son William “Billy” John‘s health scare on air when he returned to the show just over a week after the baby was born with a congenital heart defect in April. She wasn’t prepared, however, for his emotional and viral monologue addressing not only the scary ordeal but also the government battle over healthcare.
“I didn’t get one [email] with the monologue for that night,” McNearney recalled in a new article in The Hollywood Reporter of the May 1 comments Kimmel delivered to viewers.
The 39-year-old head writer for Jimmy Kimmel Live! said her husband told her ” ‘I just want you to watch.’ ”
“So, there I am, in my living room breastfeeding Billy with my mom beside me, and we’re watching,” said McNearney. “I sobbed through the entire thing. I couldn’t believe the strength that it took to tell that story a week after it happened. He didn’t have to do that.”
She continued, “Our family has excellent health care; he had nothing to gain from that. He did it for the other people whom we met in that hospital. He came home that night, and I just hugged him and I wouldn’t let go.”
In April, Kimmel and his wife Molly McNearney welcomed Billy and announced that at 3 days old, Billy underwent the surgery at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles because of his condition, the tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia.
During the May 1 monologue, Kimmel pushed for universal healthcare, saying, “If you baby is going to die and it doesn’t have to it shouldn’t matter how much money you make. I think that’s something that, if you’re a Republican or you’re a Democrat or something else, we all agree on that right?”
“We need to make sure that the people who are supposed to represent us… understand that very clearly. Let’s stop with the nonsense, this isn’t football there are no teams. We are the team, this is the United States… We need to take care of each other.”
Recalled McNearney to THR, “Look, there’s something almost every day that we could be going after, something we could try to be the voice of. But I think that would be a disservice, so we have to stay focused on the few things that are really personal for us.”
“It just so happens that this year Jimmy had a health scare with a child when health care was up for debate, and then people were being gunned down in his hometown [of Las Vegas],” she said. “He couldn’t sit quiet, and I’m so glad he didn’t. The monologues he delivered on both of those nights were so personal to him. He had 14 writers sitting in a room ready to write, and he said, ‘I got this,’ and went into his own office and closed the door. That was all him, all his heart.”
The response, McNearney said, “was and still is overwhelming.”
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“Jimmy and I can’t go anywhere without someone coming up and thanking him for that monologue,” she said. “Now, people interrupting our dinner isn’t annoying to me anymore because I’m so thankful that they show their gratitude toward him and what he did. Then came the criticism. People attacking us for politicizing what happened to our baby, which to me is truly crazy. We took a personal experience and we shared it with the world, and then it just so happened that this was going on while people were trying to take health care away from children like ours.”
Though, McNearney admitted, she’s struggled with the criticism: “It’s been harder for me to deal with than the weekly cardiologist appointments and making sure my baby is breathing properly.”
She added, however, “I don’t necessarily like that everyone knows what’s going on with the health of my child. And it’s scary to make yourself vulnerable the way we have, but the encouragement that we’re helping other people far outweighs my fears about our lack of privacy.”
Earlier this week, Billy, now 7 months old, underwent a second successful heart surgery.