NEW YORK Jerry Lewis used an anti-gay slur the same one that got Isaiah Washington of “Grey’s Anatomy” in trouble during the 18th hour of his annual Labor Day telethon on Monday, Sept. 3.
He apologized the following day for a “bad choice of words.”
The 81-year-old showman prowling about the stage during the live telecast Monday in Las Vegas was goofing around and dodging his cameraman, then went into a ramble about imaginary family members.
“Oh, your family has come to see you,” he said, speaking to the camera and gesturing toward thin air.
“You remember Bart, your older son,” he said, and motioning toward another unseen character, “Jesse, the illiterate faggot.”
“No,” Lewis said, quickly stopping himself before continuing.
Monday’s monologue prompted a critical statement Tuesday from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, but the organization followed up on Wednesday with a statement accepting Lewis’ apology.
Neil Giuliano, GLAAD president, said his organization “thanks Jerry Lewis for his swift and direct apology for this incident. We join millions of Americans in applauding the important work of the Muscular Dystrophy Association and wish MDA and Mr. Lewis much continued success in their efforts.”
In a statement Tuesday, Lewis said he was making “a joking comment to a member of my production team.”
“I apologize to anyone who was offended,” he went on. “Everyone who knows me understands that I hold no prejudices in this regard. In the family atmosphere of the telethon, I forget that not everyone knows me that well.
“That something like this would distract from the true purpose of the telethon pains me deeply. … I accept responsibility for what I said. There are no excuses,” he said.
Lewis’ telethon, in its 42nd year, set a new record by raising $63.7 million to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association, topping last year’s event by $3 million.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 7, 2007