The hosts of the 46th annual Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon said Sunday that Jerry Lewis retired from the organization and its yearly fundraiser — the charity's first comments about the beloved icon's departure since an announcement last month.
Co-host Nigel Lythgoe, executive producer of "American Idol," said during his opening comments on the telethon that he didn't realize Lewis, 85, was thinking about retirement during the show last year, when the comedian offered Lythgoe his seat as Lewis took a break and Lythgoe was coming on the air.
"And Jerry, and I know you're watching, when you gave me that chair I know it's possible to sit on it, but it isn't possible, Jerry, to replace you, sir," he said. "What you have done for this organization and its families is something close to a miracle and I know that we all want to carry on your legacy."
Entertainment journalist Jann Carl followed.
"As Nigel just said, Jerry retired from the telethon this year, but of course, he's here with us in spirit and in heart, and we will continue to be energized and inspired by what I like to call his towering example," Carl said.
Even before the telethon began airing live, the association's inextricable bond to the beloved actor and comedian hung over the six-hour primetime TV production.
Lewis raised $1.66 billion for the telethon since it started in 1966 from a single station in New York City. It was scheduled to air this year on more than 150 stations.
The Associated Press