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Jerry Lewis apologizes for saying gay slur

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Lewis apologizes for using the word "fag" during telethon
  • Lewis was joking with cameraman in 18th hour of telethon
  • GLAAD denounces Lewis' use of "fag"
  • Annual Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon raises $63.7 million
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(CNN) -- Comedian Jerry Lewis on Tuesday apologized for using the word "fag" as he broadcast his annual Labor Day Telethon for Muscular Dystrophy.

Lewis

Jerry Lewis celebrates the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon's record take at the end of the broadcast.

"That something like this would distract from the true purpose of the telethon pains me deeply," Lewis said in a written statement.

"The success of the show and all the good that will come of it shouldn't be lost because of one unfortunate word. I accept responsibility for what I said. There are no excuses. I am sorry."

Earlier Tuesday, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation called on Lewis to apologize.

"Jerry Lewis' on-air use of this kind of anti-gay slur is simply unacceptable," GLAAD President Neil G. Giuliano said in a statement posted on the group's Web site. "It also feeds a climate of hatred and intolerance that contributes to putting our community in harm's way." Video Watch how Jerry Lewis apologized »

In the 18th hour of the telethon Monday, Lewis, with his bow-tie undone and his shirt collar open, stumbled around the set at the South Coast Hotel, Casino and Spa in Las Vegas, Nevada, marveling at the cameraman's ability to keep up with him.

"Look how good he moves that camera, you son of a gun. Wherever I go, he goes," said Lewis, 81.

"Let's see what you do with this over here," said the comedian and actor, who became famous as Dean Martin's slapstick partner on stage and in several films in the 1950s.

Lewis then gestured toward two other cameras on the set.

"Oh, your family has come to see you. You remember Bart, your oldest son," he said, pointing to one camera.

"Jessie, the illiterate fag," Lewis said, pointing to the other.

"No," he said then, as some audience members laughed.

In Tuesday's statement, Lewis said, "I apologize to anyone who was offended.

"I obviously made a poor choice of words. Everyone who knows me understands that I hold no prejudices in this regard. In the family atmosphere of the telethon, I forget that not everyone knows me that well."

Giuliano said GLAAD was requesting a meeting with the comedian, who has done the Labor Day telethon for 42 years.

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"We want to sit down with him, help him understand why these words are so hurtful, and give him an opportunity to raise public awareness about the destructive impact of these kinds of anti-gay slurs, even more so in attempted humor," he said in his statement.

The 21-hour telethon raised a record $63.8 million in pledges and contributions, according to the Muscular Dystrophy Association Web site. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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