Politics are polarizing, especially when celebrities are involved.
Compared to late-night hosts Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers, Jimmy Kimmel's eponymous show had been less critical of the current administration (though he's never been afraid to make fun of President Donald Trump or members of his inner circle). But it became impossible to avoid discussing political matters after Kimmel's son was born with a rare congenital heart condition in May. At the time, Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La.) saw an opportunity and appeared on various cable TV news shows. With any new healthcare proposal, Cassidy said he would ask, "Does it pass the Jimmy Kimmel Test? Would a child born with congenital heart disease be able to get anything he or she needs that first year of life? I want it to pass the Jimmy Kimmel Test."
Kimmel was grateful to have someone else looking out for children facing similar issues, so he invited Cassidy on his show. "Thank you for naming a test after me! I always figured if I'd have a test named after me, it'd be for some embarrassing, sexually transmitted disease," he joked. After their conversation, he said, "Obviously, this is someone who cares about people's health."
Randy Holmes/ABC via Getty Images
The comedian's affection for Cassidy soured after the politician co-authored a bill with LindseyGraham (R-S.C.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare). Kimmel devoted the majority of his monologues last week to criticizing the proposed legislation, calling Cassidy a "liar." Cassidy, for his part, told NBC News Kimmel had launched a "personal attack" against him, and in a separate cable news interview, he said Kimmel "does not understand" the proposed Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill.
Kimmel said many times that reviewing the bill was "boring" but vital. "A lot of people have been saying I'm not qualified to talk about this. And that is true! I'm not qualified to talk about this," he said Wednesday. "But I think those people forget Bill Cassidy named his test after me!"
For Kimmel, the issue was personal. He can afford the hefty costs associated with his son's healthcare needs, and he will require at least two more surgeries. But he's not fighting for his family. Kimmel's eyes have now been opened "to how difficult life can be for other parents in that situation," he said Monday, "and how important it is that families are covered like we are."
Kimmel has been trying to make a common-sense argument, and in doing so, his name has been splashed across front-page newspaper stories; he has been criticized on cable news shows; The Washington Post and Politico fact-checked his monologues. And yet, he continued to speak out against the Graham-Cassidy bill and speak up for those who would be directly affected by it. "On Friday, common sense and decency prevailed when Senator John McCain of Arizona rode in and pulled a red wedding on this thing," Kimmel said Monday, making a Game of Thrones reference. "He said he could not in good conscience support Cassidy-Graham, even though it was co-written by one of his closest friends, Lindsey Graham. That takes balls. Do you know how many times I've pretended to like something just because one of my friends wrote it? A million! Right? So, that was big. And, of course, Senator McCain's position did not go over well with President Trump...The truth is, John McCain probably saved the Republican Party by doing this. Because if you think Graham-Cassidy is unpopular now, just wait until people actually have to live with it—or not live with it. Then who gets blamed? The Republican Party."
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
When the personal becomes political, it's hard to silence someone—especially someone as famous as Kimmel. "Since I started speaking about this issue, I have 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 medical care is on my side—because the facts were on my side. It had nothing to do with me," he said Monday. "It's just a matter of what's true and what isn't true."
And it's not just Kimmel who has been using his voice to amplify the voices of others.
Many stars, including America Ferrera and Jesse Williams, have become outspoken activists. And although George Clooney has been politically active for years, and leans to the Left, he's been critical of both HillaryClinton and Trump. In an interview with The Daily Beast Friday, the director explained why their celebrity status shouldn't disqualify them from talking politics.
"Here's the thing: I grew up in Kentucky. I sold insurance door-to-door. I sold ladies' shoes. I worked at an all-night liquor store. I would buy suits that were too big and too long and cut the bottom of the pants off to make ties so I'd have a tie to go on job interviews. I grew up understanding what it was like to not have health insurance for eight years. So this idea that I'm somehow the 'Hollywood elite' and this guy who takes a s--t in a gold toilet is somehow the man of the people is laughable," Clooney, who is friends with President Barack Obama, said of Trump. "People in Hollywood, for the most part, are people from the Midwest who moved to Hollywood to have a career. So this idea of 'coastal elites' living in a bubble is ridiculous."
"Who lives in a bigger bubble? He lives in a gold tower and has 12 people in his company. He doesn't run a corporation of hundreds of thousands of people he employs and takes care of. He ran a company of 12 people! When you direct a film you have seven different unions all wanting different things, you have to find consensus with all of them, and you have to get them moving in the same direction. He's never had to do any of that kind of stuff," the actor added. "I just look at it and I laugh when I see him say 'Hollywood elite.' Hollywood elite? I don't have a star on Hollywood Boulevard; Donald Trump has a star on Hollywood Boulevard! F--k you!"
And it's not just members of the Democratic Party who are speaking out, either.
"I don't give a s--t if I ever work again," actor Scott Baio, who spoke at the 2016 Republican National Convention, told The Hollywood Reporter in August. "My country comes first. I guess I'm just an old, angry, successful white guy who stole everything he has from someone else."
"I don't give a s---t about Hollywood liberals. They're gonna hate the guy no matter what," he said of Trump. "If he cured cancer, they'd be on him for putting oncologists out of business... Conservatives in Hollywood have had it. We know who Trump is, and we don't believe the propaganda, and I don't think most of the country does, either. The media is almost irrelevant."