December 15th, 2008
01:02 PM ET
9 years ago

Paterson's office says SNL went too far


CNN's Alina Cho reports Gov. Paterson is unhappy with how SNL portrayed him.

(CNN) - New York Gov. David Paterson's office says Saturday Night Live went too far in its portrayal of the legally blind governor over the weekend.

SNL, famous for mocking politicians and newsmakers, portrayed the governor in a four-minute "Weekend Update" segment as confused and disoriented - often looking in the wrong direction and mistakenly walking in front of the camera when it was not his turn to speak.

SNL's version of the governor, played by cast member Fred Armisen, also refers to using cocaine and says he became governor of New York due to a "sex scandal I was miraculously not at the center of.”

A spokesman for Paterson, who became governor of New York last spring after then-Gov Eliot Spitzer was forced to resign amid a sex scandal, suggested the skit was offensive to all people with physical disabilities.

"The governor engages in humor all the time, and he can certainly take a joke,” said Risa Heller, Paterson's communications director. “However, this particular Saturday Night Live skit unfortunately chose to ridicule people with physical disabilities and imply that disabled people are incapable of having jobs with serious responsibilities.

“The governor is sure that ‘Saturday Night Live’ with all of its talent can find a way to be funny without being offensive,” she also said.

Paterson has said he is completely blind in his left eye and has limited vision in his right eye. He is the first legally blind man to be governor.

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Filed under: David Paterson
soundoff (366 Responses)
  1. LJ in MD

    SNL got drunk on a little attention prior to the election.
    They are trying just a bit too hard now.
    Previously, when they wanted to make fun of celebrities with disabilities, they would typically have them in the skit (Stevie Wonder, for example).

    December 15, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  2. gee

    lighten up. it was funny.

    December 15, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  3. Aevon

    marshall: people are not offended they are making fun of the governor. That make fun of Hillary, Bill Clinton, and plenty of other "left wing" people all the time. it's the fact they are mocking him for being blind that people are being offended. so i do not know where you right-wing indignation comes from, acting like you guys are always being picked on...

    and you are right on one point. we should have never invaded a soverign nation based on lies and be surprised when we were told it was going to take 6 months, and it has been 5 years, and 100Ks of innocent people have been killed, including our innocent soldeirs, and the Iraqis hate George Bush.

    December 15, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  4. Brett

    I like SNL, even I am Deaf.. as I understand their reason and make things funny and mocking others.

    Every D and Lib alway complained too much.. too bad. That is what America stand for.... SPEECH FREEDOM – with common sense 😉

    December 15, 2008 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  5. Democrats screwed this economy up.

    The skit reminded me of something a bunch of us kids did in the fifth grade. Mildly funny, then just over the top stupid as we latched on and continued with one lame theme.... That being said, nothing wrong here that hasn't already been done on SNL. I've been watching SNL since Day one and it has ebbed and flowed from brilliant to utterly a waste of time. Right now, we're closer the the utterly waste of time scenario.

    December 15, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  6. James

    Most people with handicaps just want to be treated like everyone else. You can’t have it both ways. No harm no foul!

    December 15, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  7. Ed Chilton

    A frequent and terrible mistake is to generalize from one particular kind of disability (vision) to all kinds of handicapping conditions. The worst case of this in American history was that of Chris Reeve, who fell from a horse and became quadriplegic. Chris was seduced by the attention Barbara Walters soon initiated. By the time of the 1992 national political conventions Reeve had appointed hiself the "official spokesperson" not for spinal cord injured but for dwarfs, people with Tourette's, cerebral palsy, ad nauseam ad infinitim. The media ate this up.

    Persons with disability grow weary of false chivalry on their behalf.

    Judging from Governor Paterson's remarks my guess is that he does not actually know very many blind persons, nor persons with other disabilites. And that case is a terrible handicap.

    December 15, 2008 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  8. Steve/ Houston,TX

    I thought that it was funny. It was just as funny as talking about McCain and his old age, Sarah Palin and being an airhead, Obama and Hillary during the primaries. I don't see a difference. In fact, I still think it's funny!

    December 15, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  9. The Maeven

    Well, whoop di doo! It was just fine when the blatant sexism and stupidity from Tina Palin portraying Gov. Palin made her a national laughingstock, but God help you if you poke fun at an incumbent Democrat with a disability. Where was the outrage at that point? It just goes to show you how the liberal media thinks themselves above the fray, so long as the target of the mean-spirited "parodys" depend on your politics is of the "favored" party.

    Suck it up, Gov. Apparently you are more thin-skinned that Gov. Palin is. At least she reacted with humor to skits that I found sexist and demeaning.

    December 15, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  10. John in AZ

    There's really not a lot to say here. This is not an ideological issue, so people trying to bring up Sarah Palin because they think SNL is unfair to Conservatives are way off the mark. I can see how people might find the skit a little offensive. I think intent matters a great deal, and it seemed to me that SNL's portrayal still left the impression that Gov. Patterson is quite lovable. The real object of their satire wasn't his disability.

    December 15, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  11. Tim

    Liberals: Relax, get a sense of humor. Why the double standard when McCain's age was the rage during campaign.

    December 15, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  12. cg

    One more reason not to watch SNL!

    December 15, 2008 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  13. Matt

    News at 10: Advocates for the clumsy demand retroactive apology and seek court order that all SNL episodes containing Chevy Chase's impersonation of President Ford be taken out of syndication…

    December 15, 2008 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  14. KampBell_BrOwn SUx

    SNL is funny when it comes to Palin jokes but not in any other way.

    December 15, 2008 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  15. Zero Hero

    People with physical limitations want to be treated as equals, but when someone picks on them then it "oh Shame on you, they are handicapped". Bottom line is he shouldn't be treated no different than any other person. I though New Yorkers were tough, take off your dress and laugh at yourself. WAY TO SNL

    December 15, 2008 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  16. arc, Lugano CH

    True political satire should bring to light and challenge a person's policies, but not make light of a person's physical disabilities. Educated global-minded people could appreciate true political satire when the degree of Sarah Palin's ignorance and stupidity was revealed not only through SNL but pretty much everywhere else. Whereas those America First Conservatives now frothing at the mouth because they feel 'they finally won one' because the governor of NY was mocked for his blindness are as sad as SNL's attempt at humor this past weekend.

    December 15, 2008 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  17. R N

    For someone who is legally blind got to see a lot to complain huh?

    December 15, 2008 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  18. Trace

    SNL is hurting for ratings so they stoop beneath Seth's (the primary writer on these SNL dingers) left testicle to get any laughs at whatever the social cost it will bring. I like SNL but when you have to stoop this low to get laughs it's time to call it a day. Maybe it's time to call SNL like their "calling it" for ER.

    December 15, 2008 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  19. Resplendent

    How is this any different than if they'd been making fun of him for being black? The comments people are leaving just shows the double standards this country has when it comes to the jokes made about uncontrollable aspects of one's physical body. Everyone who wasn't offended by this makes my skin crawl. This isn't about Democrat vs. Republican; it's a matter of human decency.

    December 15, 2008 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  20. Will from NYC

    lighten up... SNL is a parody and over the top parody... Paterson should appreciate the press coverage...

    December 15, 2008 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  21. ST

    I think making fun of anyone's disablility is disgusting. I don't care who you are, Dem of Repub, black or white. I've had people do it at gatherings. Everyone laughed and I reminded them that their children could come out a certain way. That usually shuts them up!

    December 15, 2008 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  22. MikeMaz

    IDK I thought it was pretty funny.. And I agree with previous poster.. when you are lampooned on SNL you have made it in a way...You have to take it lightly...I bet you find the governer on that show eventually

    December 15, 2008 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  23. Zach K

    Usually I like Saturday Night Live and its parodying of Politicians, but in this case, it was tasteless.

    As a person with Autism, I can relate to Paterson saying that the skit was offensive. People do have special needs, as Paterson, myself, and others, work very hard to achieve impossible goals. Also Paterson is getting used to the position of governor after the resignation of a disgraced politican.

    Honestly SNL, please don't make fun of those that struggle daily with blindness, especially the hard working politicans, like Paterson. Please think before broadcasting.

    December 15, 2008 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  24. KampBell_BrOwn SUx

    JOHANN you are nuts. Palin offends other people, we dont offend her.
    Get it straight white girl.

    December 15, 2008 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  25. Michelle

    I am legally blind, left eye totally gone, and partial in the right. I love SNL, and I thought this skit ROCKED. Being legally blind isn't a disability, unless the person makes it one.

    December 15, 2008 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
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