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'Saturday Night Live' not funny, says N.Y. Gov. Paterson

  • Story Highlights
  • "Saturday Night Live" skit portrays Gov. David Paterson as confused, disoriented
  • Paterson, who is legally blind, became governor after Eliot Spitzer resigned
  • Representative for Paterson says skit ridiculed people with physical disabilities
  • "Saturday Night Live" has a history of skewering politicians
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By Alexander Mooney
CNN
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- New York Gov. David Paterson said Monday "Saturday Night Live" went too far in its portrayal of the legally blind governor over the weekend.

Fred Armisen, right, appears as New York Gov. David Paterson on "Saturday Night Live" with Seth Meyers.

"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.

The "SNL" skit featured cast member Fred Armisen as the governor. It referred to cocaine use, with Armisen saying he became governor because of a "sex scandal I was miraculously not at the center of."

"Come on, I'm a blind man who loves cocaine who was suddenly appointed governor of New York. My life is an actual plot from a Richard Pryor movie," Armisen said in the skit. Video Watch Paterson say he can take a joke »

Paterson became governor last spring after then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer was forced to resign amid a sex scandal.

"Now that [Alaska Gov. Sarah] Palin's not around, they seem to have run out of material," Paterson told reporters Monday. "The idea of a person rolling around the stage in a chair, being disoriented, can't find anything, bumbling, in a sense looking like a clown is a way disabled people are portrayed all the time.

"The perception that disability equals inability to be responsible is totally wrong," he added

On Sunday, a spokeswoman for Paterson suggested the skit was offensive to all people with physical disabilities. Video Watch more on the "SNL" skit »

"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."

The National Federation of the Blind also criticized the skit, calling it "absolutely wrong" and an attack on all blind Americans.

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

The governor addressed the controversy Sunday night when reporters asked him about the skit, making a reference to a "third-grade depiction," according to The New York Times.

"There is only one way that people could have an unemployment rate that's six times the national average -- it's attitude," he said. "And I'm afraid that the kind of third-grade depiction of individuals and the way they look and the way they move add to that negative environment."

But speaking to reporters Monday, the governor, who is known for his self-deprecating sense of humor, said he is more concerned with how other Americans with disabilities may view the skit.

"I don't mind that they make fun of me, but I thought it was important to speak up for those who don't have a voice and don't have a job," he said.

"SNL" has not responded to CNN's request for comment. But the late-night sketch comedy show has a history of skewering politicians, sometimes with such precision that the show's catch phrases have become more closely associated with politicians than the politicians' own words.

In the same episode Saturday night, a skit portrayed embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in a cursed-filled testimony before a Senate panel, offering to sell senators Abraham Lincoln's wedding ring.

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Earlier this year, the show saw some of its biggest ratings in recent seasons with Tina Fey's portrayal of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and cast member Amy Poehler's impersonation of Sen. Hillary Clinton.

The show also has made light of Sen. John McCain's age and Barack Obama's association with controversial Chicago figures, including the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers.

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