Jerry Lewis, the 85-year-old comedian who has become synonymous with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, was dropped Thursday (August 4) as the organization’s national chairman. Additionally Lewis will not be appear at the fundraiser’s annual broadcast this Labor Day weekend.
In May, the MDA announced Lewis would make his final telethon appearance during the September 4 broadcast. But the non-profit has since changed course. MDA’s chairman of the board R. Rodney Howell said in a statement that Lewis has been “released” from his involvement with the organization.
Lewis’ publicist Candi Cazau said the comedian had “no comment.” However Lewis’ remarks at the recent Television Critics Association meeting may have foreshadowed the declining relationship between Lewis and the MDA.
During a Q&A session with reporters, Lewis was asked what if he would explain his role with the upcoming telethon. After a brief exchange, Lewis curtly said, “No … Because it’s none of your business.” He then added the day after the telethon he would have a press conference and flatly stated, “I will have plenty to say about what I think is important.”
Jerry Lewis’ money raising efforts for MDA began in 1952. Since the “Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon” began in 1966, he has helped raise $2.6 billion for the cause. His involvement even earned him a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977.
Lewis, who has suffered from a series of ailments in recent years including multiple heart attacks, pulmonary fibrosis, prostate cancer and diabetes, will be replaced as telethon host by Jan Carl, Nigel Lythgoe, Nancy O’Dell and Allison Sweeney.