On last night’s episode of Saturday Night Live, comedian Pete Davidson mocked Texas Republican congressional candidate Dan Crenshaw and his eye patch, which Crenshaw wears after losing an eye while serving in Afghanistan; Crenshaw has since reacted to the skit on Twitter.
While discussing the midterms elections, Davidson joked about “some really gross people running for office this year.” Later, he said of Crenshaw, “You may be surprised to hear he’s a Congressional candidate from Texas and not a hitman in a porno movie. I’m sorry, I know he lost his eye in war, or whatever.”
The video is below, with the joke about Crenshaw occurring around the 1-minute mark:
Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL, explains the story behind his eye injury on his campaign website:
On Dan’s third deployment in 2012, his life changed forever. After six months of combat operations, Dan was hit by an IED blast during a mission in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was evacuated and awoke from his medically induced coma learning that his right eye had been destroyed in the blast and his left eye was still present, but badly damaged. Dan was completely blind and the doctors did not believe he would ever see again. [His wife] Tara stood by him every day and night, keeping faith and praying he would see again. After several difficult surgeries, he eventually regained sight in his left eye, a miracle according to the head surgeon. Dan refused to quit and went on to deploy twice more, first back to the Middle East in 2014 and then South Korea in 2016.
Davidson’s joke missed the mark in several ways. Mocking a veteran and his war injury is undeniably in poor taste, and the joke itself isn’t even funny. What was the intended punch line? Is he mocking the use of an eye patch or the idea of losing a body part in combat, and how is that humorous? Why was his delivery so awful?
And, although I know this segment was based on first impressions, could Davidson or SNL not have provided an actual reason — like a policy preference or a character trait, rather than a disability from combat — for why he included Crenshaw in a list of “really gross people running for office this year”? Mocking candidates based solely on their appearances is not only juvenile and hypocritical, it ultimately drags public discourse down and away from substantive issues.
I readily admit that I personally believe there are some topics that comedians should not touch. I believe there are topics and situations that should not be turned into jokes or be laughed at. Yet even though I feel that way, I do also believe there are ways to make controversial jokes as long as the joke isn’t at the expense of a victim or as long as the butt of the joke isn’t a victim. (I recognize that not everyone feels that way, which I accept.)
But Davidson’s “joke” falls flat in every way.
Unfortunately, many on the Right have willingly given away the moral high ground to criticize jokes such as Davidson’s or to argue that only the Left disrespects the military or disabilities.
Republicans nominated, and voted for, a Republican president who has mocked prisoners of war for being captured; referred to sexual promiscuity and the risk of sexually transmitted diseases as his Vietnam; used bone spurs as an excuse to avoid combat; fought with a Gold Star family; mocked a reporter’s disability; and made questionable comments that implied he would order our troops to commit war crimes.
It therefore seems somewhat disingenuous when people who have relentlessly defended President Trump now complain about the Left disrespecting the military or mocking people’s disabilities.
Dan Crenshaw, in my opinion, had the best response to Davidson’s joke:
Good rule in life: I try hard not to offend; I try harder not to be offended. That being said, I hope @nbcsnl recognizes that vets don’t deserve to see their wounds used as punchlines for bad jokes.
— Dan Crenshaw (@DanCrenshawTX) November 4, 2018
This is the type of response I prefer to see from our politicians. It’s mature, calm, and doesn’t resort to hyperbole to make its point. Moreover, it doesn’t claim that the Left as a whole is responsible for Davidson’s joke; instead, it places the blame with the entity responsible for writing, approving, and airing the joke. Lastly, it recognizes that we don’t need to give in to offense or outrage: We can argue, push back, and fight back without turning the outrage dial to 110%.
Last observation: The “Republicans pounce” or “Republicans seize” headlines are so common that they’ve become something of a joke, which is why it’s amazing that news organizations continue writing them. These headlines would be such an easy thing to change to show an attempt at reporting in good faith. Here, former RedState Senior Contributing Editor Ben Howe shows how the headlines could be phrased differently:
Alternate headline: "SNL's Pete Davidson mocks GOP candidate who lost eye in combat." https://t.co/AxXLEdN84W
— Ben Howe (@BenHowe) November 4, 2018
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.