During His Monologue, Jimmy Kimmel Tearfully Reveals His Newborn Son’s Open-Heart Surgery

The host will skip his usual ABC upfront appearance

Jimmy Kimmel will be on paternity leave for the rest of the week, with guest hosts filling in. ABC
Headshot of Jason Lynch

In one of the most emotional late-night monologues in years, Jimmy Kimmel revealed that his newborn son, Billy, needed emergency open-heart surgery at just three days old—and asked viewers to contact their member of congress and urged them to uphold the Affordable Care Act.

As his son recuperates, Kimmel will sit out his annual appearance/roasting at ABC’s upfront presentation in two weeks, which is always a highlight of the broadcast upfront week. Celebrity friends like Will Arnett and Kristen Bell will guest host Jimmy Kimmel Live for the rest of the week while he’s on paternity leave.

Kimmel, who had been off the air last week, shared the “scary story” with viewers during his monologue Monday night. Choking back tears, he revealed that his wife Molly (the show’s head writer) give birth to Billy on Friday, April 21. For three hours, “he appeared to be a normal, healthy baby,” said Kimmel, until a Cedars-Sinai nurse detected a murmur in his heart and noticed his color was a bit purplish.

It was determined that Billy had been born with a heart disease in which the pulmonary valve was completely blocked, and he had a hole in the wall between the right and left sides of his heart. “It’s a terrifying thing,” said Kimmel.

Billy was transported to Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, where at three days old, he had open-heart surgery, as doctors repaired one of the two heart defects. “It was the longest three hours of my life,” said Kimmel.

The operation was a success, but Billy will require a second open-heart surgery in three-to-six months, followed by a non-invasive procedure in his early teens. Six days after the surgery, Billy was able to go home, and a relieved Kimmel shared baby pictures.

"If your baby is going to die, and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make."
Jimmy Kimmel

He encouraged viewers to support Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, noting that he had already been doing so for years, but “had no idea we’d ever end up there.”

Then, Kimmel pointed out that last month, President Trump proposed a $6 billion cut in funding to National Institutes of Health, and then more than 40 percent of those affected by those cuts would have been children.

“Until a few years ago, millions and millions had no access to health care,” Kimmel said, referring to the Affordable Care Act and noting that before 2014, people born with preexisting conditions like Billy’s congenital heart disease would have been denied health care. “If your baby is going to die, and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make. … We all agree on that, right?”

He encouraged viewers to reach out to their member of congress to keep the ACA intact. “Let’s stop with the nonsense,” he said. “No parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life. It just shouldn’t happen. Not here.”

After the episode aired, ABC announced that Kimmel will not be attending this year’s ABC upfront event—which will be held on Tuesday, May 16—so that he can remain close to his family. That means buyers will miss out on his annual skewering of ABC’s new lineup, as well as those of his broadcast competitors, which has traditionally been a high point of the broadcast upfront week.

Kimmel is on paternity leave for the rest of the week, and in addition to Arnett and Bell, Kimmel’s friends Anthony Anderson and David Spade will step in to guest-host those episodes.

@jasonlynch jason.lynch@adweek.com Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.