For decades, Jerry Lewis has played the key role in the Muscular Dystrophy Association's annual telethon, helping to raise more than $1 billion. Now the two sides are parting ways, but no one is explaining why.
The 85-year-old comedian told reporters last week that he plans to hold a press conference the day after this year's telethon to talk about what he thinks is important. When pressed by a reporter about his role with the telethon, Lewis said: "It's none of your business."
The Tucson, Ariz.-based association announced this week that after 45 years, the comedian was no longer its national chairman and he would not appear on the telethon this year.
Association spokesman Jim Brown declined to say what prompted the decision. And Lewis publicist Candi Cazau of Las Vegas also declined to comment, telling The Associated Press Thursday that comedian was traveling outside his home state of Nevada.
In May, Lewis said in a statement issued through the association that he would make his final appearance on the telethon this year and sing "You'll Never Walk Alone" during a six-hour primetime broadcast scheduled for Sept. 4.
But during a session with reporters last week at a Television Critics Association press tour to promote an upcoming TV documentary, "Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis," Lewis hinted that his involvement in raising money for muscular dystrophy research wasn't finished.
"Who told you that?" Lewis asked a reporter who asked him how he felt about this year being his last telethon. "I never read it."
"Do you remember when the New York Times printed, `Dewey wins'? I rest my case, pal," Lewis said. "Anything you read, read it twice."
In 1948, the Chicago Tribune famously printed the headline "Dewey defeats Truman" the day after Harry Truman beat Thomas Dewey in the presidential election.
Lewis also harshly criticized reality television shows that include heavy involvement from telethon co-hosts Nigel Lythgoe and Alison Sweeney. Lythgoe is executive producer of "American Idol," which Lewis called a singing competition of "McDonald's wipeouts," while Sweeney hosts weight-loss show "The Biggest Loser."
"You just have to be bad. The business is scrounging around for what to do," Lewis said when asked how comedic actors can become great today. "And the first thing a good comic must do is let them know he hasn't changed.
"He can bring that same veracity and that same performance to a medium that's running around, knocking their brains out trying to see how we beat the fat lady at 375 pounds, and in four months she's going to be 240. Who (cares)," Lewis said. "It's ridiculous."
When asked what he'd have to do to be satisfied with his life, Lewis said: "Get the cure for muscular dystrophy, then I'm fine."
Lewis later said he would hold a press conference Sept. 5 to clarify his plans.
"I will have plenty to say about what I think is important. And that's the future, not the past," he said.
Associated Press writer Jacques Billeaud in Phoenix contributed to this report.
Oskar Garcia can be reached at http://twitter.com/oskargarcia.