Jerry Lewis 'retired' from Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon, report says
Comedian Jerry Lewis reportedly "retired" from the Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon, co-host Nigel Lythgoe said during the opening of this year's telethon, according to the Associated Press.
It is the first time anyone within the charity organization had commented on Lewis' departure since the initial announcement about his departure as chairman of the organizaiton was made in August.
Lewis' spokesperson declined comment on the situation when told about the statements made at the telethon.
Co-host Lythgoe said on the telethon that he was not aware that the 85-year-old comedian was considering retirement during the show last year, when the comedian offered Lythgoe his seat as Lewis took a break and Lythgoe was coming on the air.
"I didn't realize then that he was contemplating retiring," said Lythgoe, who is the executive producer of "American Idol and who serves as a judge on "So You Think You Can Dance."
"And Jerry, and I know you're watching, when you gave me that chair I know it's possible to sit on it, but it's isn't possible, Jerry, to replace you, sir," he said. "What you have done for this organization and its families is something close to a miracle and I know that we all want to carry on your legacy."
Entertainment journalist Jann Carl -- who also took on hosting duties for the event alongside Lythgoe, television host Nancy O'Dell and actress Alison Sweeney -- followed Lythgoe by repeating that Lewis retired from the telethon this year.
"As Nigel just said, Jerry retired from the telethon this year, but of course, he's here with us in spirit and in heart, and we will continue to be energized and inspired by what I like to call his towering example," Carl said, according to the wire service.
Superstar singer Celine Dion mentioned Lewis during a taped segment, referring to him as a friend as she introduced a cover performance of Journey's "Open Arms."
"Jerry, you will always be a hero to the MDA families," the singer reportedly said.
Lewis, a comedy legend who has appeared in scores of films and TV shows as well as produced, directed and taught film, had been chairman of the MDA since the early 1950s, before the famed telethon began.
The MDA has a goal of raising at least $1 more than the $58.9 million it raised last year. The telethon staged in Las Vegas was shortened to six hours from 21 and a half hours last year. It was broadcast live to the Eastern time zone from 6 p.m.-12 a.m. ET and tape-delayed in other U.S. zones. Final donation totals won't be tallied until the show goes off the air in Hawaii.
Each year the charity works to raise money for neuromuscular research, clinics and summer camp for children known as "Jerry's Kids."
The MDA announced in August that the entertainment veteran would not take part in the annual telethon and was no longer the organization's chairman - an end to a 60-year association. The announcement contradicted the organization's earlier statement In May, when the MDA first announced Lewis was retiring as host. At the time, the organization said he would stay on as chairman and still appear on the show.
Lewis raised $1.66 billion for the telethon since it started in 1966 from a single station in New York City. The comedian was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the telethon and the MDA.