Not so much a 'Patriot,' actor rejects praise from O'Reilly

NO POLITICS: Bill O'Reilly praised Patrick Warburton for bucking the Hollywood liberal mindset over a line that referred to Sarah Palin, but Warburton says he just didn't like the joke.
NO POLITICS: Bill O'Reilly praised Patrick Warburton for bucking the Hollywood liberal mindset over a line that referred to Sarah Palin, but Warburton says he just didn't like the joke. (Courtesy Fox News Channel)

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By Lisa de Moraes
Friday, March 5, 2010

Actor Patrick Warburton says that Bill O'Reilly incorrectly stated he had come to the defense of Sarah Palin when Warburton expressed his discomfort with a Down syndrome joke on Fox's animated sitcom "Family Guy" and that he wants no part of "The O'Reilly Factor's" Patriot game.

"I wasn't defending Sarah Palin per se. She is an adult, a politician, and a public figure. She is subject to satire. She can handle herself," Warburton told The TV Column by e-mail Thursday.

"My objection was the depiction of a specific 1 year old special needs child who could not defend himself. In my opinion, that violates the artistic norms of satire."

Warburton's referring to the "Pinheads & Patriots" segment of O'Reilly's Fox News Channel program in which he puts people-in-the-news into one category or the other. On Monday, O'Reilly homed in on Warburton:

"Mr. Warburton has come to the defense of Sarah Palin," O'Reilly said.

"It's very unusual for any actor to go against the liberal Hollywood orthodoxy, so Mr. Warburton is a Patriot."

It all started late last month when Warburton participated in a phone conference call to promote the return of his sitcom on CBS, "Rules of Engagement." During the call, The Post's Emily Yahr asked him about the "Family Guy" episode -- on that series he voices Joe, a police officer who uses a wheelchair. On the call, he said, "I know it's satire but, personally, that [joke] bothered me, too."

The former Alaska governor/GOP vice presidential contender and her daughter Bristol lashed out at "Family Guy" and at the "Fox Hollywood" network over the episode, in which a teenage girl character with Down syndrome says her mother was a former governor of Alaska. Sarah Palin's infant son has the same condition. Series creator Seth MacFarlane shrugged off their complaints with a statement about the show being an "equal-opportunity offender."

"I am not a paragon of virtue," Warburton said in his e-mail to The TV Column.

"I participate in the process of Family Guy. Half of the things I do and say as the character 'Joe' I find to be objectionable. It is the nature of satire. Ridicule, irony, sarcasm: it can all be a bit nasty, but it has to hit hard at times to take a bite."

In the episode, which aired on Valentine's Day, teenager Chris goes on a first date with a girl named Ellen who has Down syndrome. When he asks her to talk about her family as he tries to get to know her, she responds, "My mom's the former governor of Alaska."

Palin rose to the bait, taking to her Facebook page very late the next night to post a note called "Fox Hollywood -- What a Disappointment." Palin wrote that the episode was a "kick in the gut," claiming it "mocked" her baby, Trig, who has the same genetic condition.

Palin's daughter Bristol also weighed in, writing on her mother's Facebook page, "If the writers of a particularly pathetic cartoon show thought they were being clever in mocking my brother and family . . . they failed."

"All they proved is that they're heartless jerks."

Meanwhile, Sarah Palin has been making the rounds of the media with which she has so many issues, including "Fox Hollywood," pitching them a "docudrama" about Alaska.

Palin has been taking meetings with the above-mentioned Fox, as well as ABC, CBS and NBC, accompanied by Mark Burnett, the executive producer of "Survivor" and "Celebrity Apprentice," according to Entertainment Weekly.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company

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