The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced that it will
give Jerry Lewis its Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award on February 22, 2009.
Disability rights activists object to this award. 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
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!"
Disability rights activists have launched an online petition to protest the
Academy's decision and to demand the award be canceled. To sign the
petition, go HERE!
Feel free to forward.