Jerry Lewis' Humanitarian Gay Slur Controversy

Jerry LewisNikki Finke on the announcement that Jerry Lewis will be given the 2009 Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at Deadline Hollywood:

“I also have learned that protests are coming into the Academy about its Board of Governors' choice of Jerry Lewis to receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. The controversy is over his recent repeated and public anti-gay slurs. The Hollywood gay community, joined by much of the showbiz straight community, is already on edge because of Proposition 8 passed last month outlawing same-sex unions in California. So the vote by the AMPAS board selecting Lewis seems like 'salt poured into an open wound', according to one of my sources. Already several prominent entertainment biz gays have questioned the Academy about the selection of Lewis, especially for a humanitarian award. I'm told the AMPAS response has been, 'he's apologized'. My insiders say Tom Sherak, the former 20th Century Fox and Revolution Studios exec who raises money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and has a family member with MS, was primarily responsible for lobbying the board to choose Lewis.”


Here's a Huffington Post article on Lewis about his latest anti-gay public slur, two months ago on Australian television: “Oh, cricket? It's a fag game. What are you, nuts?” (A previous one took place during the 2007 Labor Day MS telethon itself, not too long after the Isaiah Washington controversy. Lewis later apologized.)

In her post, Finke adds, “I say this is a terrible choice by the Academy. AMPAS isn't bestowing on Lewis an honorary honor for his long career in the movies. The Hersholt is an award given to an individual in the motion picture industry 'whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry.['] Despite Lewis' laudatory 42 years of raising money for MDA, his publicly demonstrated debasement of gays doesn't make him a humanitarian in my eyes.”

Now, can someone be an insensitive humanitarian? Why not? Or even be both a humanitarian and a bigot? Certainly! Think of all those kindhearted people out there, those who do their best to help others – as long as those “others” don't belong to some specific group(s) based on nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, gender, religion or lack thereof, and so on and so on…

But I wonder if Jerry Lewis had used some nasty racist or misogynist slur on television if the Academy would be giving him the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, regardless of all those muscular dystrophy telethons. Of course, it could be that in these tough economic times the Academy just couldn't find enough multi-millionaire Hollywood philanthropists to honor with the Jean Hersholt Award. But then again…

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