December 15th, 2008
01:02 PM ET
10 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. bertha doucet

    SNL went over the line when they made fun of sara palin and hillary clinton .

    December 15, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  2. Alex

    I don't remember Gov Paterson objecting to the SNL,NBC & MSNBC making Gov Palin a fool.

    I'm looking forward to Pres Obama SNL skits; will NBC allow that?

    December 15, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  3. James Morrison

    So it is OK for SNL to belittle a whole segment of small-town America, conservative Christians, gun-owners, etc . through the mean-spirited satire of Governor Palin, but the minute the satire is directed at the Democrat party (albeit this skit or the now-deleted skit that poked fun at Barney Frank and Speaker Pelosi for helping cause the financial crisis we find ourselves in – then it crosses the line...

    WHAT A JOKE! I sure hope all of you idiots that voted Democrat realize the monster you have created. You reap what you sow...

    December 15, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  4. Amy

    Come on... they weren't making fun of blind people, they were making fun of Paterson, who happens to be blind! Don't make it more general than it was – he just got his poor little feelings hurt and would rather put a liberal "woe are all people with disabilities" spin on it than admit he took it personally. A caricature of Paterson without the blindness would be incomplete and not nearly as funny.

    December 15, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  5. NJ

    I think it is funny. relax people!!

    December 15, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  6. Jack

    I too am visually impaired. My vision has improved over the last few years but their was a time when I could see very little. My co-workers were very supportive but we also had a few laughs at my expense over my inability to see what I was doing at times.

    I think it is easy to find some humor in things like this when you do not feel threatened. But I don't think that it would ave been so funny if I made my living as a truck driver or construction worker..

    I am fortuate that I work in a very controlled environmentand hae enough seniority to get through a rough patch like that. The SNL skit was funny. Maybe the point is that our societ should structure itself so that all those with disabilities are in a position to laugh a little at teir own expense, feeling no threat of losing their jobs or livelyhood.

    December 15, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  7. Scott in Central Florida

    Thank you Gov. Patterson for properly condemning this mistake of judgment by SNL in an appropriate manner, I hope other responsible commentators and groups in the public eye will do so as well, indicate strongly that SNL and its network should apologize, then move on.

    December 15, 2008 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  8. Linda K.

    I couldn't believe what I was watching when I saw this skit on Saturday. Back in the 60s, when I was a child, I remember that type of humor, but I thought we'd outgrown that as a society.

    Making fun of someone because of their disabilities is simply not funny.

    December 15, 2008 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  9. Bev

    I absolutely agree. Why American television seems to think sharp and offensive has become funny I don't know. Their skit was offensive to anybody with a disability. Their nastiness in the election against Sarah Palin was also offensive. I grew up watching SNL. I remember the very first show. They made fun in a good way back then. When you were young you watched the show feeling like they "got" it in regards to how young people thought of the grown up world. Now it's different. It has become a platform for people to attack and offend. I sure wouldn't want my young adult children to feel that way and thank goodness they don't.

    December 15, 2008 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  10. Iroko Nija

    Its shameful the Organizers of Saturday Night life will decend so low to mock a blind man.Maybe because he is black? Who has ever mocked a blind white man in America, what more a governor for that matter? Organizers of Saturday night life better check itself on the way it morks blacks during it's shows or they will be checked.

    December 15, 2008 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  11. john

    His blindness certainly did not keep him from cheating on his wife. If he can't take the heat, then leave office.

    December 15, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  12. Kristin

    Oh cry cry. Now the democrats know how Sarah felt about SNL'sinterpretation of her. Let me be clear – how SNL portrayed Patterson was wrong – but so was how they portrayed Palin. The difference is the democrats whine about it, Palin just sucked it up & actually went on the show to face her critics. Big difference.

    December 15, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  13. Nick

    How did he see it?

    December 15, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  14. Old White Woman

    Joann, the difference is that a physical disability is an immutable characteristic.

    December 15, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  15. Mel

    I thought It was offensive.

    December 15, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  16. JB

    Was the Governor and his office against the portrayal of Dole's gimpy arm, or, McCain and his inability to move his arms well? This is not a first for SNL. Nor will it be the last.

    December 15, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  17. D.Reid

    Mocking the handicapped isn't funny anymore. SNL's old bit where Eddie Murphy is mocking Muhammad Ali is now unwatchable. The only show that seems to get away with it is South Park, but they attack everybody.

    December 15, 2008 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  18. RinFL

    Who cares............ and is it important? Find a real story to report there are plenty out there.

    December 15, 2008 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  19. Paul DelRio

    You cant justify this.....blind...whats next , hey lets make fun of those with special need kids. Lets keep the jokes on personality not person. With these politicians we have more than enough material

    December 15, 2008 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  20. freddie

    Lighten up people! They make fun of EVERY politician and have for over 30 years! Dem or Repub it doesn't make a difference! Remember Bob Dole's pen hand? Bumbling Gerald Ford? GRIDLOCK! And Clinton was mocked mercilessly for years for everything....lighten up people....

    December 15, 2008 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  21. Over the Top

    Let's be serious now...This was VERY different from the Sarah Palin skits. Her inability to give an intelligent answer in an interview was not a disability (in most opinions) and with coaching she can be helped and made better (and I'm sure she will).

    Coaching wont help Paterson see better. Paterson cannot help his blindness and SNL really should have found a better way to "mock" him without making light of his blindness. Just having him participate in the interview would have been fine, but it was very much over the top and truly offensive to people with disabilities.

    December 15, 2008 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  22. Mesa Mick

    Stop your whining Gov. Cowboy up and deal with it rather than seeking special treatment becasue your "handicapped". Your a politician and that's the "handicap" you're being mocked on....

    December 15, 2008 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  23. patNY

    The difference between the Sarah Palin skits and Patterson is that Patterson is disabled, and the skits were mocking his for Palin, she made her own bed with her own outrageously dumb comments without the excuse of disability [unless she's claiming mental illness which would explain everything!]

    December 15, 2008 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  24. shockg

    I saw the skit and have to agree with the Gov. on this. I thought it went a little too far in mocking his physical disability. I'm not a strict "PC" person but handicaps are not up to be joked at. When they made fun on the affairs and drug use, well he made his choices there and has to deal with the repercussions but he did not make the choice to have a physical handicap.

    I also thought the skit where they made fun of Xmas shopping and how you could be stampeded to death was not very funny. There is a family out there who will have to go through the holidays without their son/brother/husband due to this actually happening. Again, not trying to be too "PC" here but we have to reserve some sensitivity somewhere.

    December 15, 2008 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  25. Lisa S.

    I have to agree with Gov. Paterson on this one. It's one thing to lampoon a politician because of mannerisms and scandals and such, but I do think SNL went too far this time. Gov. Paterson's blindness isn't a weird quirk, it's a disability.

    I'm proud that he is my governor... I've found him to be eloquent, technologically savvy, and quite smart. The portrayal was unfair and seemed to really just play (prey?) on his blindness in and of itself with little attention to who he is as an actual person. It was crude and lazy.

    December 15, 2008 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
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