Jerry Lewis gets humanitarian Oscar
Legendary comedian Jerry Lewis accepted a humanitarian award during Sunday night’s Academy Awards ceremony in a presentation that honored both his philanthropy and his acting.
The trophy was presented to the 82-year-old actor by Eddie Murphy, who starred in a remake of one of Lewis’ signature roles, “The Nutty Professor.”
“Thank you so very much,” a visibly moved Lewis said upon receiving the golden statuette.
Lewis is the 33rd recipient of the Jean Hersholt humanitarian award. The academy presents this honor on “an individual in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry.”
The last time Lewis appeared on the Oscars was 50 years ago, as one of the hosts of the 1959 show.
“For most of my life I thought that doing good for someone didn’t mean you would receive commendation for that act of kindness,” Lewis said. “At least until now.
But before the ceremony, dozens of people with disabilities, many in wheelchairs, protested Lewis being given the honor. Many came from all over the country to join in the protest.
In 1990, Lewis wrote a first-person essay entitled “If I Had Muscular Dystrophy” for Parade magazine, in which he characterized those with muscular dystrophy as “being half a person”.
Many in the disabled community viewed his views as prejudicial, contributing to the idea that people with disabilities are “childlike, helpless, hopeless and noncontributing members of society”.