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Jerry Lewis Should Not Get a Humanitarian Award

Posted by libhom Sunday, December 14, 2008

The idea of Jerry Lewis getting any kind of Oscar is weird, given his complete lack of talent. However, there are more morally charged reasons for opposing this.

From Queers United 12/12/08:

Tell The Academy - No Humanitarian Award for Comedian Jerry Lewis

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has chosen Jerry Lewis to receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian award to be given during the Oscar ceremony in February, 2009. The award "is given to an individual in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry," says the academy.

Controversy is building around the selection due to Lewis' repeated anti-gay slurs on television, including ones he made during his annual Muscular Dystrophy association telethon, and as recently as last October, on Australian TV, the latter shortly after an apology for his insults.

Many are in agreement that Lewis has done amazing things for those in need, but due to the recent passing of Prop 8, his recent slurs, and the fact that this is a humanitarian award, a call for the academy to change its choice has been made.

CALL TO ACTION: To voice your disapproval, contact AMPAS by emailing them at publicity@oscars.org or call them at (310) 247-3000.

Thanks for this guest post from our friends over at Unite The Fight.

Another reason why Lewis should not be given a "humanitarian award" has to do with his condescending attitude towards people with Muscular Dystrophy. From a press release from the American Association of People with Disabilities - August 2001:
Activists Call on Disability Community to Protest Jerry Lewis Telethon!

Washington, DC - With less than three weeks remaining until the Labor Day Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon, disability activists have announced their plans to protest the event. Lewis, who has repeatedly outraged activists with frequent offensive comments and his "pity" approach to raising money on the telethon, has drawn renewed fire recently for responding to telethon protesters by saying, "If it's pity we'll get money. . . . Pity? You don't want to be pitied because you're a cripple in a wheelchair? Stay in your house!"

In response, activists have set up www.stoppity.org, a web site dedicated to removing Lewis from his position as chairman of the MDA, and asking MDA stop using misleading stereotypes of people with disabilities in its fundraising. Included on the site is a petition, located at www.stoppity.org/petition.php, requesting MDA to make these changes. The site also aims to educate visitors about the disability community's objections to Pity, and the Telethon's part in promoting it. In less than three days since its launch, over 100 people have signed the StopPity.org petition -- many of them people with disabilities who have left strong comments about the telethon and the Pity it promotes.

The campaign has the ambitious goal of getting 2000 signatures by Labor Day of this year to deliver to MDA and its sponsors. "We hope that disability advocates across the country will get the word out about this campaign," said Taylor Hines, the founder of the site, who has a neuromuscular disease covered by MDA. "The pity Lewis and the telethon promote hurts all of us in the disability community. It encourages others to see us as pathetic, childlike and useless and thus interferes with our quest to obtain real equality and respect in society. We must speak out for ourselves this Labor Day, or Jerry Lewis will speak for us."

The websites are old and out of commission, but the points are still valid.

I also would encourage you to learn more about the current activities of the American Association of People with Disabilities.

Many people want to see struggles against various forms of bigotry and discrimination as isolated. This enables them to maintain some of their prejudices against others while fighting for their own equality. This poses two major problems.

1) Oppressed people by their very natures have less power. Working together makes such groups stronger.

2) The psychological mechanisms of bigotry and economic motivations behind encouraging bigotry are similar across all the lines. Failing to resist one form of bigotry helps the wealthy and powerful to psychologically condition people to have other prejudices.


1 Responses to Jerry Lewis Should Not Get a Humanitarian Award

  1. Anonymous Says:
  2. An online petition protesting this award has been started at http://www.petitiononline.com/jlno2009/petition.html

    To many disability activists, feminists, and LGBT people, Jerry Lewis is NOT a humanitarian. He has insulted many members of minority groups, including people with muscular dystrophy and other disabilities.

    Here are some examples: 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. We've argued that he uses the Telethon to promote 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!"

    If you object to the Motion Picture Academy's decision to recognize Lewis as a "humanitarian," sign our online petition at



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