On the final episode of Saturday Night Live (SNL) before our November midterm elections, the show trotted out Pete Davidson for another election special. During the skit in question, Davidson was tasked with giving his first impression of a batch of midterm election candidates. After mocking incumbent Republican governor of Florida, Rick Scott, he compared Republican Representative of New York, Peter King, to a cigar.
Next on Davidson’s hit list, oddly enough, was yet another Republican. This time, it was Republican challenger Dan Crenshaw. It would be worthwhile to add some important context to Davidson’s comments. Dan Crenshaw, during his third tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2012, had his right eye destroyed by an improvised explosive device, and his left eye was badly damaged. After several surgeries, he regained eyesight in his left eye. After regaining sight, he returned to the Navy to serve two more tours, once more in Afghanistan, and another in South Korea. Crenshaw attempted a sixth tour, but was medically retired due to injuries to his eye.
Pete Davidson understood this well, and went on to mock Crenshaw and his wounds sustained during combat. Davidson joked that “You may be surprised to hear he’s a congressional candidate in Texas and not a hitman in a porno movie,” Davidson, resisting a laugh at his joke, expanded upon his comment, stating, “I’m sorry, I know he lost his eye in war, or whatever. Whatever.” Crenshaw handled this more professionally than anyone could have, taking to twitter to share a “Good rule in life: I try hard not to offend; I try harder not to be offended. That being said, I hope SNL recognizes that vets don’t deserve to see their wounds used as punchlines for bad jokes.” In a video obtained by TMZ, Crenshaw took the high road, saying “I want to get away from this culture where we demand apologies from people every time they misspeak. […] I don’t need to demand an apology from them, they can do whatever they want. They’re feeling the heat from around the country right now.”
I am far less willing to give Davidson the benefit of the doubt. Davidson has been a long time liberal, in December of 2017 he went as far as to tattoo former Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton onto his right leg. Davidson was targeting Republicans, and alluded to it himself when he said “Here’s a Democrat, so I look fair,” before proceeding to mock Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo. Finding little to mock in a young, handsome, passionate NAVY Seal, Davidson went straight for the lowest hanging fruit: a decorated SEAL’s disability. One of the byproducts of the politically correct cultural moment that we find ourselves in, is that some things can’t be joked about. Regardless of how you feel about the situation we’re in, we’re in it. And if anything deserves to be off limits, It’s the mockery of disabilities sustained in conflicts, won by people like Crenshaw, who defend the freedom to mock him in the first place.
If we were to remain consistent in our principles, Davidson crossed a line, and is now no-longer suitable for employment. In theory, Davidson should be treated no different than James Damore, Roseanne Barr, or Bill Maher. Either offensive things said in the public domain are subject to punishment, or they aren’t. SNL, in recent years, has taken a turn to the left. They were recently under fire for a skit called “Kavanaugh Hearing Cold Open,” which portrayed then Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who was tasked with defending himself against a 35 year old allegation, as an angry drunk. SNL had little to no empathy or understanding of the situation Kavanaugh found himself in. SNL is easily America’s most recognizable, late-night, comedic TV show. As such, SNL must be held accountable in mirroring and upholding the political moment that we live in. It is unfair and hypocritical that Davidson be let off the hook, but others suffer consequences of jokes and statements made in the past. It is either okay to make jokes about touchy topics, or it isn’t, and SNL can’t have it both ways. SNL and It’s platform could be a tool used to dismantle this black & white paradigm, but until they do, Dan Crenshaw deserves an apology and Pete Davidson deserves punishment.