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Jerry Lewis loses it during telethon

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Tuesday p.m. update: Jerry Lewis has issued an apology for using a foul slur on air Monday during the waning hours of his annual MDA telethon:

“I obviously made a bad choice of words. Everyone who knows me understands that I hold no prejudices in this regard,” he said. “The success of the (telethon) and all the good that will come from it shouldn’t be lost because of one unfortunate word. I accept responsibility for what I said. There are no excuses. I am sorry.”

Tuesday a.m. update: It’s widely reported on the wires today that Jerry lost it toward the end of the telethon on Monday and called someone an “illiterate fag” on air. TMZ.com has a clip of Lewis’ unfortunate comment posted on its website, and it sure sounds like he’s making that reprehensible statement, though it’s unclear exactly who is the target of his ire. Why Lewis would sully his annual moment in the good-works spotlight by using such a slur on air is unfathomable, but then again, people have always said that Lewis is his own worst enemy.

   

Say what you will — LA LA LA NICE LLLAAADDDYYY — about Jerry Lewis, but every year he raises a boatload of money for a worthy cause with his Labor Day weekend MDA telethon, and there’s no way that this is not a good thing in the grand scheme of things.

The haul from this year’s 21.5-hour show, broadcast from Las Vegas, was $63.8 million, nearly $3 million more than last year, as detailed on the telethon’s website. Lewis has been hosting the telethon for half of his life. (He’s 81; the telethon is 42 this year.)

The live shots of a goggle-eyed Jerry panting, sweating, crying and yukking it up with Norm Crosby and Ed McMahon, et al, interspersed with cutaways to local news anchors in formal wear, is one of those TV traditions (for those of us born before the Ford administration) that we’ll miss, sorely, when it inevitably ends.

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