"You don't want to be pitied for being a
cripple in a wheelchair?
STAY IN YOUR HOUSE!"
That's how Jerry Lewis expressed his contempt for people with disabilities in a CBS interview on May 20, 2001.
If you don't hear the contempt -- the shameless bigotry -- in that statement, try substituting the minority group:
Now you hear it, right? It's not just the old derogatory word. It's the message that we have to accept the prejudices of other people or stay off the streets. For people with disabilities who have fought hard to be free of institutional lock-up and confinement in back bedrooms, this message is unacceptable.
It's especially outrageous that Lewis is the chief spokesman for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, a multimillion dollar charity whose telethon is being aired for over 20 hours in over 200 cities this weekend. For decades, MDA and Lewis have used pity to raise money. To give just a few examples, Lewis has called --
The telethon gives the public the idea that we have one foot in the grave and our only hope of happiness or usefulness is if they find a cure. That's not only insulting, but false. These messages get in the way when we try to live our lives.
Here's what we want MDA to do:
Here's our message to the general public:
And, please be assured --
We're not staying in our houses!