MDA Telethon Host Says Yesterday that Jerry Lewis is “Always Welcome”

The annual Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon took place yesterday, and while it might have been sans Jerry Lewis, that doesn’t mean that big elephant in the room wasn’t talked about.

In fact, it was mentioned many times over.  American Idol” executive producer Nigel Lythgoe and co-hosts Jann Carl, Nancy O’Dell and Alison Sweeney spent five minutes after being introduced talking about Lewis and his lifelong legacy to the association, saying that Lewis “retired”:

“There appeared to be an elephant in the room, and it’s one that you go talk about…This guy is someone who’s put this whole thing together…It has to continue without him and we are going to need a lot of help from everybody to ensure that it does continue…Because Jerry, bless him, is 85 and isn’t going to be around forever anyway. And the MDA and this telethon has to continue.”

Many of the celebrity guests and performers also commented on Lewis’ absence, including Celine Dion, who called him a friend.  And during the show’s closing minutes, a two-minute montage was played, showing classic moments of Lewis dancing, speaking, singing, and being with his famous friends and the children that he loved so much.

While there was never any public comment from Lewis or his PR team about his departure, and besides the comments during the show, nothing else has been said by the association, Lythgoe still told the Associated Press that he wished he had seen the star at some point:

“I was fully expecting him to turn up at any point and join that six hours — and I’m sorry he didn’t…And hopefully another year he might. I mean, he knows that he is always welcome on the telethon. It’s his baby.”

Lewis publicist Candi Cazau said in the past that Lewis never agreed to any appearance, recorded or live.

In his 45-year run as chairman, Lewis raised a total of $1.66 billion.  This year, according to officials, it raised $61.5 million, an increase of about $2.6 million over last year.

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