Saturday, February 21, 2009

Jerry Lewis Oscar award protest

Radar ran an article and photo of the protest by disability rights activists about Jerry Lewis receiving the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award this Sunday at the Oscars.
Why the protest?

via Tell Oscar- NO humanitarian award for Jerry Lewis! on Facebook:

During his decades of hosting the Labor Day Telethon, Jerry Lewis has helped to perpetuate negative, stereotypical attitudes toward people with muscular dystrophy and other disabilities. Jerry Lewis and the Telethon actively promote pity as a fundraising strategy. Disabled people want RESPECT and RIGHTS, not pity and charity.
In 1990, Lewis wrote that if he had muscular dystrophy and had to use a wheelchair, he would "just have to learn to try to be good at being a half a person." During the 1992 Telethon, he said that people with MD, whom he always insists on calling "my kids," "cannot go into the workplace. There's nothing they can do." Comments like these have led disability activists and our allies to protest against Jerry Lewis, and against the Telethon. We've argued that the Telethon promotes pity, a counterproductive emotion which undermines our social equality. Here's how Lewis responded to the Telethon protesters during a 2001 television interview: "Pity? You don't want to be pitied because you're a cripple in a wheelchair? Stay in your house!"
On February 22, 2009, we won't be staying in our houses watching the Academy Awards. We'll be publicly objecting to this award. We'll be defending our own humanity against this so-called "humanitarian."
For more information go to The Trouble with Jerry

There is an online petition you can sign in support of the protest.

A link to photos from the protest has been posted up at The Trouble with Jerry. You can find photos here.

You can also follow the protest on Twitter at notjerryskids


Ben Mattlin said...

I agree. Jerry Lewis does not deserve the humanitarian award. It's not just the derogatory comments he continues to make. It's that all his work for the MDA -- the Labor Day telethons and so forth -- do far more harm to than good for people with disabilities.

The will MDA is not saving kids' lives. In fact, I'm not sure the charity itself isn't corrupt.

Which is why disability-rights activists from across the country are converging on Hollywood to protest this award. We have more than 2000 signatures on a petition, but the Academy doesn't care.

What I do know is that Lewis exploits kids with disabilities (including me, 40 years ago) to use pity as a strategy for fund-raising, which sets the cause of disability rights back a generation or two. "Help Jerry's kids" is insulting. More important, it's dangerous for our social status and self-esteem. No, it's not easy being a person with a disability in an able-bodied world. But we certainly don't need Jerry's raising pity, or Jerry's bucks for medical charity, making matters worse.

Would you hire one of Jerry's kids for a job? Would you want your son/daughter or brother/sister to marry one of Jerry's kids? Clearly, the whole idea does not further equality or full integration of the disabled. It marginalizes us.

For two decades Lewis and the MDA have refused to work things out with us. We have tried. Instead, Lewis threatens us with nothing short of assassination. The organization does not join the fight for disability-rights legislation, does not employ people with disabilities in any meaningful way, and does not hold its corporate sponsors to any kind of standard of fairness. Neither the MDA nor Jerry Lewis fit the definition of humanitarian.

I would be happy to discuss this with anyone interested. For more information, go to

LetRVoiceBHeard said...

I have never really watch the Telethon with Jerry Lewis. Mostly because the very first time was more of a pity thon then a telethon to raise money for a good cause.

Why some celebs uses their status for pity and discrimination factor then to educate people about disabilities while not treating as as lower then low on the spectrum.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Just unbelievable that people are actually protesting a flawed 82 year old who has sometimes made crass statements that he has mostly apologized for and someone who has raised 800 billion for MDA.
He started doing the telethons in a day and age that was very much different than today. He is from a different era .... I think at the very least he deserves a break from the speech police who monitor every word.
Not one of the critics can say they have done more for MDA or any other charity that they may give to. That is a FACT. I am sure many other organizations would love 800 billion.
Let's remember his association with MDA started in 1951 before most of you were born... a time when polio was raging through the U.S. Here he was part of the most famous comedy duo of the time all the while lending his name to the MDA cause.
Frankly it's sad and somewhat sickening to see a website of speech police officers who have nothing better to do than to go after an 82 year old FLAWED comedian.
Again 800 million!!!!! No one.. not anyone writing on any blog or who has written any article can say they have given more financially to the MDA. I hope all you people who are so perfect and never have offended anyone are given such respect.

Bob said...

Kind of cowardly to go anonymous with a rant like that, don't you think?

Anonymous said...

Have you ever heard the expression
"NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPUNISHED". I'm so sorry Jerry. Just saw you on the Academy Award show and it was so good to see you looking so wonderful. Thank you Jerry.
D. Holloway

Bruce said...

People have to protest against something I guess. LOL

The telethon has raised over 1.46 BILLION for MD. Do you think that money just lined people's pockets? Do you have any understanding how significant that sum is and what it has done to advance MD research and support those afflicted with MD and their families? I suggest you visit the MDA site and get educated before you trash the accomplishments of Jerry's efforts. He's not perfect and I'm sure you are not either, are you? In fact, you've just proven it. Hypocrites exist everywhere.

Anonymous said...

It's clear from the patronizing, disrespectful dismissive tones of these comments that they aren't even willing to listen seriously to what is the trouble with Jerry.

Mike said...

To Bob .. I am the one who wrote the "rant" and I was anonymous because I didn't think I could leave my name because I am not a member of the openID community.
I went on a rant because I had just gone on that anti-Jerry Lewis site or whatever it was and I just thought it was disgusting.
I read "what the trouble with Jerry" was. Has he said offensive things about gay's.. yes.. has he apologized for most of them ..yes.
Is there a case to be made that the MDA telethon is outdated and in this day and age may give the appearance of exploitation of the disabled.. yes to that too.
All that considered in my opinion does not take away from everything he has done.
Also.. the listing of the "spoken misdeeds" of an 82 year old man is really awful in my opinion. Who is patronizing who exactly.
I think when people go after Jerry Lewis it minimizes the people out there who are the real bigots or the ones causing the real harm in society.
Also.. I want to make a correction. I said he raised 800 billion.. that should have said 800 million

not half a person said...

The people who are the real bigots? Jerry Lewis wrote in Parade magazine in 1990 about disabled people being half a person.

I am not half a person.

Jim said...

Mr Lewis seemed to be in such pain at the Oscars - cut him some slack. You're probably right that his way of viewing disabilities can be felt as patronizing rather than empowering, but it reminds me of a doting father who has his heart in the right place, even as he doesn't let the kids grow up in his eyes. I feel like forgiving it. In any case, I believe most of the money raised by him has been helpful, and the way he ran the telethon did suck in the cash.

Jim Katz

hotwheelz said...

The ends don't justify the means, unless you're Machiavelli, Jim.

I agree with you that Jerry Lewis is patronizing. That patronizing attitude about not seeing "the kids grow up" is not just in his eyes, but the eyes of society. It's prevalent and widespread and behind the lack of progress in people with disabilities getting their civil rights.

How would you like to be turned away from a job because someone sees you as a perpetual child because you have a disability? I bet you wouldn't like that.

Jim, do you understand what's at stake when a celebrity like Lewis espouses such nonsense as saying that pity is allowed and acceptable and people with disabilities should stay in their homes? Would you like to be told to shut up and stay in your home by a celebrity?

The damage done by Jerry Lewis with his statements isn't realized by those who don't deal every day with the discrimination that comes from words such as his that are excused by people like you. I try to cut able bodied people some slack, because they have limits in what they can see about living with a disability, but they really don't do a very good job at cutting slack back, Jim.

Some are pretty rigid people who aren't used to the idea that disabled people are "allowed to" even speak up and have an opinion.

Gary said...

Senator Robert Byrd lamented his KKK affiliation. George Wallace recanted his segregationist views. I would admire Lewis if he could do the same -- grow, evolve, consider that there truths outside of his ego. It was interesting that in one of the "objection comments" the description "doting father" was used. That's the problem with Jerry too, isn't it? I'm 60 years old. I don't need a father to provide for me.


FridaWrites said...

Red Cross, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, Komen Breast Cancer, and others have raised more money than the MDA in a much shorter time without relying so heavily on celebrities. There are other ways. If MD were in the public eye in more ways, people would realize that Lewis' view is one person's--but there are so few representations of MD.

I don't know that Jerry Lewis has changed his mind--it would be nice if he has though I haven't heard about it. But I hope that there are more positive depictions of people with MD to counter the current impressions people have. Obviously there's no way a potential employee could mention MD in an interview because the perception is going to be skewed.

Yes, Lewis did look in pain--I recognize that look.

Jim said...

Thanks for setting me straight here. I'm somewhat talking about stuff I do not know. The people with MS and other disabilities in my work and social circle are few and those are not activists but engaged in their own careers with little reference to their physical challenges. I certainly agree that Jerry Lewis needs a change. He could take the step of redefining 'his kids' as his colleagues and equals in a fight together. He could staff his organization entirely and visibly with people with disabilities and make a statement. I just don't feel comfortable throwing out the big baby with the bathwater here. There must be something better than just rejecting him and his work.

Jim Katz