Jimmy Kimmel’s wife, Molly McNearney, had no idea her husband was going to share their baby boy’s health issues with the world.
And she definitely had no idea what sort of impact it would have after the fact. McNearney, 39, opened up about the emotional whirlwind in an exclusive sit-down with The Hollywood Reporter.
Their son Billy was born with a rare congenital heart defect. “He [the doctor] sat down on the bed and put his hand on my knee, and I just burst into tears,” said McNearney. Three days later, Billy successfully underwent surgery.
But the whole ordeal left such an impression on her husband, the late-night host was compelled to open up about his son in a touching monologue.
McNearney, the head writer for “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”, had no idea the monologue was planned: “Even though I was on maternity leave, I was still getting all of my work emails, and I didn’t get one with the monologue for that night. I emailed Jimmy, and he said, ‘I just want you to watch.'”
“I sobbed through the entire thing. I couldn’t believe the strength that it took to tell that story a week after it happened,” she continued. “He didn’t have to do that. 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.”
McNearney never would have imagined the monologue would resonate with so many people. “The positive response was and still is overwhelming,” McNearney explained. “Jimmy and I can’t go anywhere without someone coming up and thanking him for that monologue.”
“Then came the criticism,” she continued. “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.”
And it got really bad: “People were sending letters to our home, attacking both of us on Twitter, saying things like we deserve this and we’re terrible people. That’s been the ugliest part of all of this, and it’s been harder for me to deal with than the weekly cardiologist appointments and making sure my baby is breathing properly.”
McNearney can’t wrap her head around why children don’t have access to health care. “I just don’t understand,” she told the publication. “To me, children having access to health care, no matter what their parents’ income, should not be a divisive issue, but that’s where we are as a country right now.”
So just how personal was that monologue to Kimmel? “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,” concludes McNearney.