Legally blind New York Gov. David Paterson lambasted a "Saturday Night Live" skit for portraying him as an aimless bumbler. But those who have watched the sharp-witted Paterson over his two decades in public service know how he might have deadpanned in the past: I didn't see it.
The skit that aired Saturday featured "SNL" cast member Fred Armisen as Paterson, who must appoint someone to replace Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Armisen said he has three criteria for filling the job: economic experience, upstate influence and someone who is disabled and unprepared for the job — like himself. He held up a chart illustrating the state's job losses upside down.
"I don't mind that they make fun of me, but I thought it was important of me to stand up for people who don't have a voice and don't have a job," Paterson said.
Marc Liepis, a spokesman for NBC, which broadcasts "Saturday Night Live," said the network would not comment.
Paterson has used self-deprecating humor for years, riffing on his own blindness regularly, even on national television. The patter has only increased praise from advocates for the disabled black man who worked his way through Albany's stodgy Senate to be elected lieutenant governor and in March take over as governor.
Some of Paterson's greatest hits:
— At his inauguration after taking over for Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who resigned amid a sex scandal, Paterson joked that he was brought in early the first time he spoke in the Assembly Hall to get used to the massive podium "so I didn't break anything."
— In a September appearance on "The Colbert Report," he was asked whether he would waive host Stephen Colbert's traffic tickets and replied: "I don't see traffic."
— When running for lieutenant governor with Spitzer in 2006, he described Spitzer as the idea guy and himself as the legislative technician, "because I sure don't have the vision."
Lee Miringoff, director of The Marist Poll, which regularly gauges public reaction to politicians, said the reaction to the SNL skit seemed out of character for Paterson and potentially unwise for any politician.
"I can't recall the last time a politician has reacted negatively to being lampooned on 'Saturday Night Live,'" Miringoff said. "It humanizes them. At least your name is on the marquee."
Paterson lost sight in his left eye and much of his right after an infection as an infant. He can see shapes and usually recognizes people as they approach, but he can read for only a few minutes at a time and must hold text close to his face.
Chris Danielsen, spokesman for the National Federation of the Blind, said the portrayal suggesting Paterson was befuddled and disoriented because of his blindness is "absolutely wrong."