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

Paterson's office says SNL went too far

CNN

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. grahame

    Anyway SNL can do better than that. Or to quote John MacCain's comment regarding not supporting Sarah Palin in 2012.

    "Thank you for your support. I shall always wear it."

    December 15, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  2. Dave

    Back in the day, disabled people were discarded, as they should be. "Survival of the fittest" does not mean that disabled people have rights too. It means they adapt or die out.

    December 15, 2008 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  3. Francesco

    Give me a break! This was a very ENTERTAINING skit. I have a lot of respect for the governor of New York and did not lose any of it from watching this episode of Saturday Night live. People are way too sensitive in our society. I didn't see anyone crying about when they made fun of McCain by mocking his arm movements on the show back in November. What about all of the other characters portrayed on SNL or MADtv? There is always a stereotype being poked fun at and no one raises an eyebrow at them. Why all of a sudden is this a problem? Doesn't the governor have more important things to take care of besides his itty bitty feelings? Get over yourself Paterson! It was a joke!

    December 15, 2008 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  4. Molly

    It's SNL...they can do that! Learn to take a joke.

    December 15, 2008 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  5. EW

    The only reason that politicians get upset about this kind of thing is when it hits too close to the mark of reality.

    Fear of being ridiculed is probably their only motivation to stay semi-honest, or at least hide their deception and corrution better.

    December 15, 2008 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  6. Tom

    Lampoon a public figure's behavior if you want, but making fun of being blind is indeed over the line.

    December 15, 2008 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  7. Jen

    I would have thought Paterson would be the LAST governor that anyone would make fun of! He's doing a great job here in NY, doesn't take any crap from the crooks who've been re-elected for years now. And he does have a great sense of humor- the guy cracks me up! SNL should know better than to make light of a disability. Not all public officials deserve ridicule, stick to those who do- maybe, oh I don't know, Blago? Palin?

    December 15, 2008 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  8. eagle78550

    I thought it was hilarious .....the $50 for circus tickets was the best !!!

    December 15, 2008 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  9. Dave in Houston

    Sorry, but SNL probably feels that they have to be kind of rough on Democratic Governors David Paterson and Rod Blagojevich to provide some balance to their treatments of Republicans like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin.

    The writers of political humor are in a panic over the election of Barack Obama and the departure of W. Bush, Cheney and Palin have made writing political comedy way too easy. Oftentimes, using those people's words verbatim was sufficient to get laughs.

    Since the Democrats are in power and Barack Obama is unfunny so far, other Democrats can expect to be the butts of political humor in the future.

    December 15, 2008 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  10. LJ

    Is a physical disability only defined by law? Is ugly not ridiculed or fat not ridiculed? What about being too tall or too short? All characteristics are ridiculed and satired. Our society's over interest in being PC is debilitating. We all have shortcomings or issues in life. It is time to take a chill pill.

    December 15, 2008 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  11. Robert Adams

    I think SNL went too far. They are completely insensitive about offending other people. In this case, sight impaired.

    Too bad SNL will do anything for a laugh. Shame on you SNL!

    December 15, 2008 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  12. Matt

    Blah blah blah

    and next we'll hear about "advocates for the clumsy demand apology and that all SNL episodes containing Chevy Chase's impersonation of President Ford be taken out of syndication..."

    December 15, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  13. Kathi Geukes

    It's time for SNL to come to an end. It hasn't been funny for a very loooong time and the writers are sick and twisted.

    December 15, 2008 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  14. Steve from Florida

    SNL went over the top on this. They should be more sensitive to people with disabilites...but what about Sarah Palin? She is just plain stupid!

    December 15, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  15. Kevin Quinn

    Anything portrayed on SNL should not be taken seriously. Everything is a parody. The governor's portrayal was no worse than that of Sarah Palin, who even came on the show to make fun of herself.

    December 15, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  16. Randolph

    It was sad and mean. I do believe that it should be some restrictions in attacking and mocking people.

    December 15, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  17. Julie from MD

    I am glad David Patterson has spoken out against this. SNL did take their depiction of him too far. Although they didn't seek to intentionally label people with disabilities as being incapable of holding a job, I did not find the skit funny. I work with people with disabilities for a living... and it is skits like this and movies like Tropic Thunder that keep the disability stigmas alive, even when we work so hard to try and overcome these barriers.

    SNL should apologize to Governor Patterson and refrain from making fun of someones disability in the future... even if it is for a couple of laughs.

    December 15, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  18. Sam

    I completely agree.

    I watched the skit and was pretty turned off by it. What was SNL thinking?

    December 15, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  19. KM

    I agree with the Governor on this one. I believe that there is such a thing as being oversensitive, but SNL portrayed him as being incapable and confused, nothing that he has even remotely exhibited.

    December 15, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  20. facts are facts

    This is one time I would have to agree with the governor as there were many ways for SNL to create humor about him without focusing so much on the disability.

    December 15, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  21. Megan

    I absolutely would understand the governor's office's concern about the depiction of Gov. Paterson, if it were viewed in a vacuum. Yes, it was a bit juvenile and over-the-top. However, in light of similar charicatures done in recent months - of Sarah Palin, the Clintons, Joe Biden and, very notably, the older woman from the McCain rally who incorrectly referred to Obama as a Muslim and an Arab - I believe Gov. Paterson is being represented in a way that's pretty much on par with other recognizable individuals.

    In fact, I think it's to SNL's credit that they didn't "go easy" on Gov. Paterson due to his disability. They didn't treat him more harshly, by any means, but, as with all of their charicatures, they played up a few of his more recognizable traits. They didn't say, or even imply, that he would be less able to do the job due to his visual disability... all comedic implications about his ability to do his job were based on professional and personal credentials that they played up.

    To the article's point about Fred Armisen's Paterson "unknowingly" walking in front of the camera, that's something they've had several characters due this and last season.

    I know that with certain populations in our country there is a justified sensitivity to being mocked in any way. It's true that our populace is not quite ready for some types of joking, since many of our citizens still harbor all sorts of prejudice. AND, at the same time, let's place blame where it ought to be and not where there seems to be an actual attempt at parity in comedic representation.

    December 15, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  22. Jinny Lee

    I don't consider this humor.....I consider it "bullying."

    December 15, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  23. monica, atlanta, ga

    i agree. SNL is not what it used to be years ago, at this point it's just offensive and stupid. making fun of a physical disability is never okay, and i can't help but to feel that they're just trying to get some publicity with this, which is even worse.

    December 15, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  24. RealityKing

    SNL is obviously in desperate need of new talent...

    December 15, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  25. ET from Omaha

    I will boycott SNL for 1 month because it's outreagous to make fun of disabled people. BAD TASTE JOKE. Don't you have anything anymore on SARAH PALIN or BLAGUE – O -AND-B**h?

    December 15, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
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