Hold the front page: in today’s breaking news, it would appear that politicians are liars. We’ve got late-night host Jimmy Kimmel to thank for this shocking revelation. Kimmel opened up Tuesday’s show by calling out Louisiana senator Bill Cassidy for lying to him about his plans to remove healthcare for millions of Americans.
In May, “after my son had open heart surgery, which was something I spoke about on the air [Cassidy] was on my show and he wasn’t very honest,” Kimmel said. “He said he would only support a healthcare bill that made sure a child like mine would get the health coverage he needs, no matter how much money his parents make.”
Just a few months later Cassidy went on to vote yes on the Senate’s failed July bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Now, alongside Lindsay Graham, Cassidy is pushing yet another bill to repeal Obamacare and take healthcare away from the Americans who need it the most.
According to an analysis by the think tank Center for Budget and Policy Priorities the Cassidy-Graham bill would cause millions of people to lose coverage, weaken protections for people with pre-existing conditions and deeply cut Medicaid. Basically, everything Cassidy said he wouldn’t do.
That Kimmel has so publicly called Cassidy out as a liar is commendable. So is the fact that Kimmel is turning himself into Hollywood’s moral voice on healthcare.
But it’s also worth asking why on earth Kimmel believed Cassidy in the first place. No one goes on a late-night TV show to tell America that they think babies from poor families deserve to die.
You go on late-night TV to smile and wave and say things that make people think, hey, that’s a guy I’d like to have a beer with. And then you go back to your constituency and promptly renege on all your promises. Surely that’s the way that politics has worked for thousands of years?
Not to mention, expecting anyone connected with the Trump administration to have a shred of moral integrity in their body is, I think we can agree by now, borderline delusional.
But that’s the problem, you see: when it comes to giving the Trump administration the benefit of the doubt, a lot of America does appear to be borderline delusional. It started as soon as the election results came in, with a resounding chorus of columnists insisting ‘we should at least just give Trump a chance!’
This was followed by various iterations of: ‘it’s OK, Ivanka will save us’; ‘it’s OK, the Republican party will come to its senses and save us’; ‘it’s OK, the checks and balances built into the American democratic system will save us.’
Again and again, the media has given the Trump administration and the Republican party the benefit of the doubt. And they’ve continued to give them the benefit of the doubt long past the point that any doubt was removed that they didn’t deserve it.
Worse still, America has made it pretty clear that lying isn’t such a big deal after all. In fact, if you do it with enough gusto (and you’re a white man) it can help you build your personal brand!
On Sunday Sean Spicer – the guy who trashed the press, the guy who insisted that Hitler hadn’t used chemical weapons on his own people, the guy who lied again and again to America – made an appearance at the Emmy’s, invited there by Stephen Colbert.
“This will be the largest audience to witness the Emmys, period — both in person and around the world,” Spicer told the crowd; a joke which riffed on his infamous assertion that the audience for Trump’s inauguration was the largest in history.
Just like that, Spicer’s reprehensible history of deceit as the White House press secretary was sanitized and turned into a punchline. And Spicer, a man no self-respecting person would want to be in a same room with, was canoodled by celebrities for the rest of the night.
Celebrities are the unofficial legislators of America; the extent to which they control public opinion. It doesn’t matter if you’re just having a bit of fun, when you have an enormous platform, every little thing you do sends a message.
Let’s hope that Kimmel’s comments about Cassidy send a message to his Hollywood peers that politicians lying is never funny.