We probably felt the same way that you did upon reading this headline from USAToday.com: Could Jerry Lewis, America's Clown Prince and host of countless muscular dystrophy telethons, have possibly uttered such callous words about recently departed friend and contemporary Merv Griffin? Well, yes—yes he did, but as in all headline-grabbing celebrity soundbites, context is everything, and what might have come off like the equivalent of fellow prostate cancer sufferer Lewis taking an intermittent pee on Griffin's freshly filled grave was instead part of a larger interview, airing tomorrow on Entertainment Tonight, in which Lewis expressed frustration that Griffin didn't immediately seek the medical care he required to beat the stubborn disease.
Still, we imagine the comic auteur will receive some backlash for the bluntness of his sentiments, but coming from a man who once directed himself playing a clown who lured Jewish children into Auschwitz with balloon animals, it's not exactly a news flash that subtlety was never Lewis's strong suit.
The full press release:
JERRY LEWIS SPEAKS TO ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT ABOUT MERV GRIFFIN'S DEATH AND WHY HE DIDN'T HAVE TO DIE
August 23, 2007 (Los Angeles, CA)— ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT spoke with Telethon veteran, Jerry Lewis about his good friend Merv Griffin. Lewis expresses his disdain for the fact that Griffin did not get screened for cancer. He tells ET, "I was very angry when I heard he died. He didn't have to die. He knew he had prostate cancer and he did nothing about it. He deserved to die." Lewis adds, "You can't have cancer and say, I'll be alright. You're not going to be alright. It's a malady that has to be addressed. I had it. I went and had it addressed and got it out of there."
Jerry Lewis tells ET, "I'm going to beat George Burns. Burns died at 100, I'm going to go for 101 and I want a television special for my 101st birthday!"