SNL Blindly Offends on Weekend Update

Saturday Night Live has always made politicians' policies and missteps the butt of jokes, but the popular NBC show stooped too far on Dec.13, when it made fun of a governor's disability.

On Saturday, Seth Meyers' “Weekend Update” bit featured a sketch with Fred Armisen playing New York's Democratic Governor David Paterson. Armisen played the role of the mostly blind Paterson with one eye half closed, and was shown needing help finding the desk right in front of him.

A politician's policies and positions and even their personal quirks are fair game for comedians. But poking fun at a personal ailment or disability went too far, and the governor's office agreed.

According to a December 14th New York Times article, the governor's communication director Risa Heller called the sketch “nothing more than cheap ridicule.” SNL,  she said, “unfortunately chose to ridicule people with physical disabilities and imply that disabled people are incapable of having jobs with serious responsibilities.”

The SNL caricature of Paterson had him fumbling around a desk and, at one point, holding an unemployment graph upside down. Meyers pointed out the mistake saying, “Uh, governor, it's upside down.” Armisen replied, “You bet it is,” referring to the economic downturn and appearing as a bumbling fool.

Paterson has been legally blind since ear infection damaged his optic nerves when he was three months-old. Paterson's blindness has not kept him from achieving in higher education or from becoming the first black governor of New York, and the first legally blind governor of any U.S. state.

“The governor is sure that 'Saturday Night Live' with all of its talent can find a way to be funny without being offensive,” Ms. Heller added.