Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Jerry's "Kids" or Jerry's "Orphans"?

Jerry Lewis is going to receive an Oscar, but it's not for acting. It's a Humanitarian Award for his years hosting the Muscular Dystrophy telethon each Labor Day. By all accounts he's raised over 2 billion dollars with his telethon. Great, right? There are several disability activists who would answer this question with a resounding "No!"

These folks don't like the way Jerry displays his "kids" as hopeless and helpless "half a person" (a term he used to describe people with disabilities a few years ago). They believe he is a big reason people with disabilities are not valued in society, and I agree.

Harriet McBryde Johnson, an attorney from Charleston, S.C., who had a physical disability and died last summer, was one of his greatest critics. She said in a chapter titled "Honk If You Hate Telethons" from her book “Too Late to Die Young”; "Lewis’ productions raised money by turning children into objects of pity without hope, effectively sentencing them to death on live TV."

Jerry has also raised the ire of the gay community when he made a derogatory "fag" comment on last year's telethon. That the Academy of Motion Pictures would give this guy an Oscar (he was never so much as nominated for one while acting)as a Humanitarian is frankly; beyond my understanding.

1 comment:

Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

Great to see someone blogging this issue.

There is now a petition campaign protesting Jerry's award at: http://www.petitiononline.com/jlno2009/petition.html

And there is a Facebook group dedicated to the campaign at


I've also blogged the petition, along with a discussion of the difference between "pity" and "empathy"; why Jerry's brand of pity is destructive; and why real empathy is more likely to lead to human rights: http://reunifygally.wordpress.com/2009/01/10/protest-pity/