A few weeks ago, the big news was that Jerry Lewis was ousted as the spokesman and public face of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. He will no longer be doing his famous - or infamous - stint as host of the M.D.A’s marathon Labor Day telethon.
In what I read in the Los Angeles Times, there were plenty of people who were “outraged” that the “iconic” comedian was “unceremoniously dumped” from this “legendary” role. There was mention of how important it was to Mr. Lewis to find a cure for muscular dystrophy and to help to do so, including by annually hosting a live television broadcast for 24 hours straight. There was comment on how the comic is beloved despite having made impolitic remarks about women and gay people.
But there was nothing, other than a brief mention in a commentary, about Jerry’s Kids. There was nothing about how Jerry’s Kids have always considered Jerry Lewis and the telethon - or his telethon? - to be infamous, to say the least.
Jerry’s Kids are adults living with Muscular Dystrophy, spearheaded by Mike Ervin and others, who are active and productive and who have strenuously objected to the way Mr. Lewis has always, often in tears on the telethon, portrayed those with M.D as helpless, all-but-dead victims to be pitied. I remember at one point the Kids got into a public argument with Mr. Lewis, in which Mr. Lewis, in a television interview, not only adamantly refused to say he was doing anything wrong but also chastised the Kids for causing a ruckus.
There was nothing about this in all the news I saw. And I think this is more than another instance of the mainstream media ignoring the disabled and what matters to them.
In fact, Jerry Lewis’ ouster as the M.D.A spokesman can be seen as a victory for Jerry’s Kids and at least in part spurred on by them. The M.D.A surely recognizes that Mr. Lewis’ pity model is badly outdated (as is the telethon, which has been drastically shortened to 3 or 4 hours). Give the Kids some mention, if not some credit.