Jerry Lewis has hosted his last MDA telethon
Last week at TCA, Jerry Lewis batted down rumors he was severing his association with the Muscular Dystrophy Assn. telethon he presides over every Labor Day weekend. On Wednesday night, MDA confirmed those rumors -- the organization said that it was relieving the performer of his duties as national chairman and that Lewis won't be appearing on this year's telecast.
In a short statement announcing the telethon news, R. Rodney Howell, MDA chairman of the board, said that Lewis is a "world-class humanitarian and we're forever grateful to him for his more than half century of generous service to MDA." It said it would not replace him for the post of national chairman.
The 85-year old Lewis has hosted the telethon since it began in 1966, turning a generic fund-raising event into a fixture of the entertainment calendar and raising more than $2 billion for the disease.
Photos: Jerry Lewis
But his involvement hasn't been without controversy in recent years. In 2007, Lewis nearly let slip a homophobic epithet. In the last few months the question of his relationship with the telethon has grown more complicated. In May, news surfaced that Lewis would host his last telethon in 2011. Lewis denied the report. At TCA, he reportedly said to journalists that "it's none of your business" when they asked about his future association with the event.
MDA is expected to name a new host, who will join a quartet of co-hosts that includes entertainment personalities Nigel Lythgoe, Jann Carl, Alison Sweeney and Nancy O'Dell.
Lewis can still be seen on television in the coming months: He'll appear in the new documentary "Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis," which takes a look at his long career via rare footage and the testimonials of comedians such as Eddie Murphy and Alec Baldwin. The special airs on Encore this fall.
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photo: Jerry Lewis at TCA '11. Credit: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters