LAS VEGAS (AP) — In his first public appearance since inexplicably parting ways with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, comedic icon Jerry Lewis said Saturday that his years of service to the charity helped make him a star.

Lewis accepted a lifetime achievement award from the Nevada Broadcasters Association, saying that he made his reputation in show business by saving lives.

“I made my reputation in this business caring for what I did,” said Lewis, who donned a red foam clown nose at one point during his speech in front of politicians and other entertainers. “For someone who has an ego like I have, humility doesn’t come that easy.”

Lewis said he was humbled to hear several congressmen and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval describe watching Lewis host the MDA’s annual Labor Day weekend telethon every year throughout their childhoods.

“It was as meaningful tonight as ever,” the 85-year-old said of the recognition. “And I don’t think I can go into the why of that.”

Lewis hinted several times during his brief speech that he could not explain why he is no longer the national chairman of the MDA after 45 years. He will also no longer host the group’s annual Labor Day weekend telethon.

Lewis appeared briefly at the dinner, entering just before his tribute and leaving the room minutes after making his speech. He declined to speak to reporters as he left the event.

MDA officials announced earlier this month that Lewis would no longer be the public face of the Tucson, Ariz.-based association without offering any explanation. When pressed by a reporter at the time about his role with the telethon, Lewis said: “It’s none of your business.”

Lewis has said he would hold a press conference the day after the telethon to clarify his plans. “I will have plenty to say about what I think is important. And that’s the future, not the past,” he has said.

The MDA announced major changes to its telethon Thursday, including slashing it down from a nearly 22-hour show to six hours of prime time television in an effort to boost audience numbers and raise more money.

The Sept. 4 show will be co-hosted by “American Idol” executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, “Entertainment Tonight” anchor Nancy O’Dell, “The Biggest Loser” host and “Days of our Lives” star Alison Sweeney, and journalist and TV producer Jann Carl.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (19)
  1. Julie Manton says:

    Jerry Lewis probably doesn’t need the money, yet he was probably taking a salary of millions of dollars, which most likely went up each year to do the telethon.

    1. Stryker 21 says:

      Does no talent and an idiot have anything to do with it?

      1. Mark says:

        Your a dope and obviously know nothing about this man’s heart and comedic contributions. He’s an icon, and your a dope who unfortunately gets to voice his opinion. What’s your legacy & or body of work?

  2. Dennis says:

    Julie Manton your a moron. Jerry does not take any monet for his charity work and he prohibits anyone promoting his money making events from capitolising on his charity work. Please check facts before you give your brain dead opinions.

  3. Mary McIlhenny says:

    Regardless of what his salary was, replacing him with Lithgoe and/or any of those other clowns precludes my ever watching again. I’ll give at the office from now on. You don’t just dump a person who has given so much of his life and time to such an important cause without explanation… or at the least you don’t leave it to worst-case assumptions on the part of the public. Very unprofessional, and ego or not, Lewis deserves better.

  4. Linda B says:

    It’s all about money, everything is even nonprofits that say they are nonprofits but in reality out for profits! The whole wold is a scam nowadays!

  5. Marian K. Welty says:

    uh, and whose going to watch that? Cause i’ll have better things to do on Labor day from now on.

    Jerry Lewis Telethon or nothin.

  6. Wynne says:

    Only a couple of months ago he was hospitalized; reason,”overly tired.” C’mon, the guy’s 85 and has a host of ills. He’s quoted as saying he “retired” from his MDA hosting gig. We’ll probably never know the whole story behind his leaving, but so what? Not our business.

  7. Julie says:

    Dennis, you’re the moron to believe that he doesn’t take any money. And yes, I do know this for a FACT. He has been paid remarkably well… millions, which is probably why he wasn’t invited back. The economy is in the toilet, less money will be donated, and the telethon can’t afford Mr. Lewis anymore. He justified his salary by his name as being the draw for the telethon, and felt that it was successful because of him. There’s no doubt that it was. MDA is very recognizable, and Mr. Lewis is to be credited for this. So Dennis, just know that if you’ve given to the telethon in the past, you have given more to Jerry, and not so much to the kids.

    1. alan says:

      Too much … Look over your shoulders before run over by a van? A small small research shows:


      Over the years, Jerry has made hundreds of appearances on behalf of MDA at business conventions and meetings of civic, fraternal and youth groups. In fact, hardly a day has passed in which Jerry hasn’t met, worked for, phoned or just talked about youngsters and adults living with neuromuscular diseases and MDA’s efforts in their behalf. He corresponds with many of those served by MDA.

      MDA uses 76.4 cents for services, clinics, and research. MDA is constantly ranked by Money magazine as one of the best managed non-profits. You need to check your info people. MDA and Jerry Lewis have never paid any of the stars to come on the Telethon, everyone , including Jerry Lewis himself is a volunteer.

  8. Michael J. McDermott says:

    Really a guy who appreciates what he has and has always wanted to give back or do whatever he could for those who have less in this world. One of the kinder men in show business. I will miss him dearly. In the back of my mind I keep thinking he’ll be back to at least do something for the telethon. Maybe he’ll, “run around and go nuts” or something (ha ha). It’s hard to think of Jerry Lewis as merely dumped and even harder still to think of the MDA telethon without thinking of Jerry Lewis.

  9. A Nony Mouse says:

    Awful, EVIL move by the MDA.
    In my mind, MDA = Jerry Lewis!! They are “Jerry’s Kids”.
    Guess I’ll be giving my $$ to a charity that appreciates loyalty and service – NOT MDA this year!!!

  10. Driver Tom says:

    The bottom line is that today’s generation who dont watch tv any more has no idea who Jerry Lewis is ….In an economy that is bad having a 22 hour telethon doesnt make sense…With the younger generation not tuning in and a older generation that dont have money to give …. the telethon has ran its course atleast on tv… In the future perhabs on line is the place to go to readh the new generation. In today’s world the 85- year old Lewis , jokes and personality is not appreciated in the more gentle and politically correct world the younger generation is living today…….

  11. rich says:

    i had a cousin that had MDA she passed several years ago but when she was alive our family was very involved with the telethons and i can tell you WITH OUT DOUBT a huge amount of money went directly to jerry. i personally think the telethon is now and always was a sham think about it jerry did this for what 50 years or there about? and no real advance has been made for these people who suffer this? i think as is the case with a majority of these types of non profits to much money is spent on the GLITZ AND GLAMOUR of things and not enough was/is spent on the actual needs of the kids

    1. Dr Phil says:

      Your cousin did not have MDA.

      There has been extensive research and advancements in the understanding and treatment of MD thanks to the work of Jerry. When he started MD was a big unknown.
      No matter what happens to Jerry, the cause must go on for the welfare of MD patients. For anybody to say they are no longer suppporting MDA because of anything is very shallow on their part.

  12. ginny says:

    The MDA telethon will always be Jerry Lewis to me, just as St. Judes will always be Danny Thomas. Fortunately, St. Judes still has his daughter, Marlo Thomas, involved.

  13. babydave1947 says:

    i have and always will support mda but jerry gave 45 years to mda because he love his kids and you could tell it was a passion to him..without his kids i don’t think his life will matter any more

  14. margaret morales says:

    the telethon is and always will be jerry lewis if he wanted to retire thats his choice but if he was truly forced out to me that is disrespectful and we do all deserve some answers,.mm

  15. margaret morales says:

    it just wont be the same it was jerrys heart,.mm

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Watch & Listen LIVE