As a writer and producer on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” as well as Kimmel’s wife, Molly McNearney should have been the first to know about his moving monologue about their son’s health issues.
McNearney told the Hollywood Reporter that while she was on maternity leave with their newborn son William (whom they call Billy), she was still receiving work email in May when she noticed she hadn’t received one about that night’s monologue.
Instead 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,” she said. “I sobbed through the entire thing. I couldn’t believe the strength that it took to tell that story a week after it happened.”
Kimmel had tearfully talked of Billy’s birth on April 21 with a serious heart issue and used it as a plea to ensure that healthcare in this country was affordable for everyone.
The newborn had open-heart surgery a few days after he was born and this week had a second successful surgery.
Kimmel has used his experience as the parent of a sick child to become one of the most high-profile advocates in the health care debate.
His wife is now reflecting on why he felt the need to dive into the political hotbed.
“Our family has excellent health care; he had nothing to gain from that,” she said. “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.”
McNearney said the response has been overwhelming with strangers continuing to come up and thank Kimmel for his monologue.
But there has also been the backlash, she said, with accusations of their “politicizing” their baby’s health crisis.
“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,” McNearney said. “People were sending letters to our home, attacking both of us on Twitter, saying things like we deserve this and we’re terrible people.”
And while she said she’s not thrilled with the lack of privacy which comes with their being so public about their child’s health, McNearney feels it’s worth it to help others.
She also reiterated her pride in Kimmel.
“I’m looking forward to the day that I get to tell [Billy] about all of this,” she said. “I want to be the one to tell Billy what his dad did for him.”