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Jerry Lewis Takes Anti-Gay Act on the Road

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By GLAAD |
October 25, 2008

Jerry Lewis made an anti-gay slur on Australian television similar to one he apologized for using on his annual telethon a year ago. Following a news conference in Sydney Friday, Lewis, 82, was asked by a Network Ten national TV reporter for his opinion on the Australian national sport of cricket.

"Oh, cricket? It's a f-- game. What are you, nuts?" Lewis replied.

comedian Jerry Lewis dribbles laughs while talking about his touring show in Sydney, Australia, Friday, Oct. 24, 2008.

Comedian Jerry Lewis dribbles laughs while talking about his touring show in Sydney, Australia, Friday, Oct. 24, 2008.

The network broadcast the comment in full on its Friday evening news along with footage of Lewis handling an imaginary cricket bat with an effeminate gesture.

Corey Irlam, spokesman for the Australian Coalition for Equality, said, "Lewis is a world-renowned comedian but clearly this wasn't funny." The group called on Lewis to apologize.

Lewis apologized in September last year for using a similar anti-gay slur in Las Vegas during his annual Labor Day telethon that raises money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association

"Last year, Mr. Lewis apologized for using an anti-gay slur on live television, and expressed his desire to raise public awareness about the impact of this kind of defamation," GLAAD president Neil G. Giuliano said. "Clearly he did not take the lessons of that unfortunate episode to heart because, in an effort to be humorous, he has once again managed to offend and defame the gay community."

"For someone so well known for helping others, Mr. Lewis shows an incredible lack of dignity and respect when he makes comments that contribute to a climate of intolerance," Giuliano said.

Lewis was still in Australia on Saturday and has performances booked there through Nov. 1. His Australian spokeswoman Julie Cavanagh said he did not intend to comment.

“Mr. Lewis is widely admired by many people for his talent and his charity work, so his words carry great weight,” said Rodney Croome of the Australian Coalition for Equality on Saturday. “He owes an apology to the gay community, to cricketers and to comedians for debasing their trade with his cheap homophobia."

The broadcaster who chose to air Lewis' statement unedited also came under fire. "Network Ten should never have given a platform for Mr. Lewis’ remarks," Giuliano added. "The network needs to apologize to its viewers and do a better job in holding public figures accountable for their use of anti-gay slurs.”

The comedian held Friday's news conference to promote his latest stage show that is touring Australia. It is a retrospective of his career that includes show tunes with a 24-piece band, excerpts from his scores of movies and television shows, and his trademark slapstick comedy.

Additional reporting and photo by the Associated Press

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