Jimmy Kimmel said it best when he took the stage at the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s 48th Anniversary Gala Vanguard Awards on Saturday night: “Obviously this has been a very interesting week.”
The late night talk show star, who hosted the gala, received a standing ovation after guests at the Beverly Hilton Hotel were shown highlights of his very public war of words in recent days with Republican leaders over the party’s latest proposed health care legislation.
“It seems very fitting that we are here tonight because you are committed to improving the health and safety and welfare of these teenagers at the LA LGBT Center,” Kimmel said. “Obviously they are relying on you for help because we don’t necessarily get it from out government.”
It was in May that Kimmel first entered the health care debate in a very public way with an emotional monologue on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live about his newborn son’s heart defect.
Since then, he has said any health care measure would have to meet a “Jimmy Kimmel test” to assure that people with pre-existing conditions have adequate coverage. He said the current proposal fails the test miserably.
Louisiana GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy, co-sponsor of the current GOP health care bill, has taken Kimmel to task for speaking out and suggested he is not qualified to do so because he didn’t grasp the nuances of the bill.
MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell, a presenter at the gala, used a chunk of his time on stage to defend Kimmel.
“A few serious words about a very serious person,” O’Donnell began. “It is important that we think of him as a serious person. Because Jimmy Kimmel is, by occupation, a comedian and outside of show business that’s a dismissive. You have used that dismissive used against him this week as if it’s a slur.”
Kimmel in a seven-minute monologue last week accused Cassidy of lying to his face when the lawmaker appeared in his show to discuss health care last spring.
O’Donnell praised the talk show host for taking Cassidy and other GOP lawmakers on so publicly because it could cost him in the ratings.
“Jimmy Kimmel has done something he did not have to do,” O’Donnell said. “Traditionally in Jimmy’s sector of show business it’s considered very risky. I am sure there were and maybe still are millions of Trump voters who watch him. He gave those voters a difficult decision to make this week with their affections. He took that risk. And that is a brave act.”
Although Kimmel was not one of the night’s honorees, those who were being honored also had high praise for him.
Former advisor to President Obama Valerie Jarrett, recipient of the Rand Schrader Distinguished Achievement Award, said on stage: “We know we’re in challenging times. I’m so happy to have Jimmy Kimmel here. Drop the mic for you!”
Vanguard Award recipient Ariel Emanuel, Co-CEO of WME | IMG, said: “Jimmy, thank you for hosting and thank you for protecting Obamacare. It’s truly incredible what you’ve been doing.”
The horrific so-called Graham-Cassidy bill is strongly opposed by the Center.
It would have a hugely disproportionate and devastating impact on people living with HIV and LGBT people because they’re more likely to live in poverty, particularly: women, people of color, youth, seniors, survivors of domestic violence, and transgender people.
Like earlier proposals to replace the Affordable Care Act, this bill would also gut Medicaid—the health care program for seniors, people with disabilities, and those earning below a living wage—by approximately $1 trillion. About half of the clients that come to the Center for health services depend on Medicaid to receive services that they could otherwise not afford.
The lead sponsor for this year’s gala was American Airlines. The event came at a critical time for the Center, a time when federal funding for many of its services, particularly those that serve the most vulnerable in our community, are threatened.
No organization in the world serves more LGBT people, or offers a wider range of LGBT-specific services, than the Center. Just last year the organization welcomed more than half a million visits from youth and adults who represent the full diversity of the LGBT community; people of all races, religions, gender identities, sexual orientations, and ages.