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. Dave

    This is what America is now about. Make fun of Republicans and it is "comedy" no matter how offensive it is. Make fun of Democrates and it is offensive no matter what. I do agree making fun of his blindness is offensive, but SNL made fun of age (McCain) and females (Palin) being stupid. Guarantee that if SNL made fun of a disability of a Republican then it would be seen as humor. How can our politicans be non-partisan when the majority of Amercians are not?

    December 15, 2008 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  2. RG

    It made me think of the time they had Stevie Wonder on the show doing the Canon Camera commercial, the main difference being in that sketch Stevie was a willing participant.
    The show is a waste now, has been moving that way for a few years. Without some type of show-stopping presence to lure viewers in (last one was probably Will Ferrell), it has become flat and boring. Part has to do with the writing, but as great performers have shown over the years, the legendary ones were able to take even a badly written sketch and find a way to make it memorable.

    December 15, 2008 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  3. linda olakowski

    I did not see the skit, but my father is completely blind, but a very intelligent, educated man who is often treated like he is mentally deficient because of his visual disability. My teen age daughters are all carriers of the retinal degenerative eye disease he has, I am very hurt and offended by making fun of people with disabilities, and even giving people the impression that those with disabilities can't overcome prejudice and aspire to be and do whatever they want to in this country.

    December 15, 2008 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  4. Republicans must go! Vote them out!

    Republicans will bring our country to the ground with what ever little power they have left. If the auto industries go, it is because of the southern state's and their republican corrupt scumbags.

    December 15, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  5. JM

    Oh please people. SNL made a skit about Gov. Palin's husband being the father of her daughters unborn child and where was the outrage over that? You moron's can dish it out but you can't take it.

    December 15, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  6. Michael

    I agree, I was really looking forward to seeing Hugh Laurie on SNL, but that skit was really offensive. He is blind, not stupid!

    December 15, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  7. Todd

    SNL wasn't making fun of blind people. They were making fun of a Governor who happens to be blind. When they make fun of President Bush's intellect, should all stupid people be offended? Get over it. You either thought it was funny or you didn't but gimme a break on the PC/sensitivity crap. It's what SNL does and has done well for decades. I found Risa Heller's comment offensive. Typical BS from our government... Now this is going to become a thing and take away from the real problems.

    December 15, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  8. Geeque - Chicago,IL

    STUPIDITY is disability as well, SNL should apologize to Sarah Palin......... not.

    December 15, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  9. Patti in NY

    Did anyone see the vicious interpretation of McCain's disability on Mad TV????. Bobby Lee portrayed him as having two wooden arms swinging aimlessly week after week, and inferred that he was senile. I guess you can only ridicule the disabilities of Republicans

    December 15, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  10. Scotty P.

    wow ok One this is political satire if you can't handle it quit crying, and quit and go be a greeter at Wal-mart. Two don't you have better things to do with i'm sure your very "valuable" time then to focus on how you were represented on a late night television show??

    December 15, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  11. Never PC


    First ammendment folks.

    Before you say I'm insensitive, I am losing sight in one eye as I get older. If people would stop whining the world would be a better place.

    I have an idea........ there's something called a "channel changer", and another marvelous invention caleed the "on-off" button. Every TV, and radio made in the world has these miracolous items on them. Try chankging the channel if something offends you.

    December 15, 2008 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  12. Doug from Allentown

    "...Grow up, people. SNL isn't the only one making fun of people about things they can't control. Heck, Don Rickles, one of the best comedians ever, does it every day. I'm sick of the PC police!..."

    Ryan, this isn't about PC. If they were making fun of a 'nameless' blind man, it would probably have been okay. This was a VERY personal jab at a specific individual. There really is a difference. If you cannot see that, perhaps you have the disability.

    December 15, 2008 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  13. SB

    Maria December 15th, 2008 11:00 am ET

    "It's called freedome of speech, eh, liberals? Doesn't feel so good when its aimed at you."

    So now it's "liberal" to be disabled. Closed-minded conservatives only understand and empathize with that which influences them and those they idolize. Perhaps if they mocked Regan for his Alzheimer's-induced incapacitation during the last years of his life you would understand the insult this carries.

    December 15, 2008 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  14. Michele

    My husband is legally blind, is the CEO of a major corporation, coaches our children's sports teams and is an amazing golfer. He does all of this despite his limitations. I am so proud of him for all he has accomplished and found the SNL skit to be very offensive. An apology from SNL is in order.

    December 15, 2008 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  15. Ketre

    I understand making a mockery out of Palin and Blagojevich, but SNL was totally out of line for making fun of this Governor's disability.

    December 15, 2008 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  16. ts mpls, mn

    Gee, didn't anyone find all of the skits mocking Sara Palin at all offensive?


    Being dumb and incompetent is not a disability. If you had a loved one that had a disability you would know the difference. The deck is already stacked against them as it is. There are some things you just don't make fun of.

    December 15, 2008 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  17. Coultergeist

    It's one thing to mock someone based on their actions (Blogavevitchwhatever) and/or talents (or lack thereof i.e. Miss Wasilla 1984), but ridiculing someone for their disability is going way too far. I'm not a sensitive bleeding heart pansy and fancy myself to be quite unPC, but SNL's depiction of Gov. Patterson was way over the line. That being said they should just issue an apology to the Gov. which I'm sure he'll graciously accept, and move on to more important issues, like, shoes flying at W's head LOL!

    December 15, 2008 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  18. Charles

    Gov. Paterson can dish out jokes of other politicians during his takeover and transition, but he cannot handle the reverse. Please. This SNL skit was terrific, and really gets to the comedy in the character of our new governor. Watch the skit: they were making fun of the governor, not blind people. This only goes to the truth of the matter, which is that democratic politiicans in New York are mainly a bunch of wimps. They bow down to a republican mayor of New York, not even trying to take the mayorship back. That too, like the SNL skit, is funny.

    December 15, 2008 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  19. Joey

    I hope PE Obama does not have the same Secret Service that was supposed to protect Bush during that Iraq interview session. Those fools waited til after the second shoe was tossed to take action and even then they didn't seem to aggressive. That shoe could have easily been a hatch thrown at Bush. I think those guys should be fired.

    December 15, 2008 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  20. HH

    Anyone remember Stevie Wonder when he was a guest in SNL? It was one of the best....and Stevie didn't complaint. You remember the sketch with the camera while playing tennis?? Stevie play tennis then Joe Piscopo was playing tennis while Stevie took some pictures...

    December 15, 2008 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  21. Matt

    @ marshall

    The guy who threw a shoe at Bush should be given the Iraqi equivalent of the Medal of Honor. Maybe if Barbara threw her shoes at him more often when he was growing up he wouldn't have turned out to be such a complete a$$hat.

    December 15, 2008 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  22. Bob

    SNL is poorly researched and definitely insensitive.
    Recently the owners of a impeccably responsible Savings and Loan were falsely accused of hideously profiting from deceptive mortgages. At the end of the skit, two actors representing the married owners appeared over a title "These people should be shot" !!!
    The owners had sold out their Savings and Loan in order to pour the money into their philanthropic foundation.
    SNL should have been able to research the truth, and NEVER posted a retraction

    December 15, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  23. MD

    SNL is just not that funny, no matter what they are trying to do.

    December 15, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  24. bill

    I saw the skit, and I don't recall any jokes being made about his blindness affecting his job performance. They joked that his unpreparedness affects his performance, and that his tainted past affects his performance, but the only Blind Joke they made was when he didn't realize he'd wandered on to the set. They didn't say he gets lost in the governors mansion and gives presentations to the urinals. It was a generic blind joke and not discriminatory towards his WORK PERFORMANCE.

    December 15, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  25. Lynn

    I love SNL, but felt that this skit went too far. I do happen to be a parent of a disabled child, but I think I would have felt the same way regardless.

    December 15, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
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