Saturday, January 10, 2009
To: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
This petition has been launched to object to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' announcement that it will give Jerry Lewis its Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Oscar Awards ceremony on February 22, 2009.
During his decades of hosting the Labor Day Telethon, Jerry Lewis has helped to perpetuate negative, stereotypical attitudes toward people with muscular dystrophy and other disabilities. Jerry Lewis and the Telethon actively promote pity as a fundraising strategy. Disabled people want RESPECT and RIGHTS, not pity and charity.
In 1990, Lewis wrote that if he had muscular dystrophy and had to use a wheelchair, he would "just have to learn to try to be good at being a half a person." During the 1992 Telethon, he said that people with MD, whom he always insists on calling "my kids," "cannot go into the workplace. There's nothing they can do." Comments like these have led disability activists and our allies to protest against Jerry Lewis. We've argued that he uses the Telethon to promote pity, a counterproductive emotion which undermines our social equality. Here's how Lewis responded to the Telethon protesters during a 2001 television interview: "Pity? You don't want to be pitied because you're a cripple in a wheelchair? Stay in your house!"
Jerry Lewis has also made derogatory comments about women and gay men. His outdated attitudes and crude remarks are dehumanizing, not humanitarian.
Therefore, we the undersigned support the actions and arguments of the coalition group The Trouble with Jerry. We protest the Academy's characterization of Jerry Lewis as a "humanitarian." And we ask that the Academy cancel its plans to give Lewis the Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
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