Pete Davidson’s emotional response to the end of his engagement to Ariana Grande made headlines this weekend. But all the media wants to talk about Monday morning is the Saturday Night Live cast member’s joke about Texas Republican congressional candidate Dan Crenshaw’s war injury. Fox & Friends alone dedicated no less than five segments to what was essentially a throwaway line.
During a “Weekend Update” segment in which he shared his thoughts on various midterm election candidates, Davidson said of Crenshaw, who wears an eye patch due to an injury he sustained as a Navy SEAL in Afghanistan, “You may be surprised to hear he’s a congressional candidate from Texas and not a hitman in a porno movie.” Laughing, he added, “I’m sorry, I know he lost his eye in war or whatever.”
“Good rule in life: I try hard not to offend; I try harder not to be offended,” Crenshaw tweeted Sunday. “That being said, I hope @nbcsnl recognizes that vets don’t deserve to see their wounds used as punchlines for bad jokes.”
Crenshaw, who leads his Democratic opponent in Texas’ 2nd district by a wide margin, followed up that tweet with multiple cable news appearances Monday morning on both Fox & Friends and CNN’s New Day. While he said he was not demanding an apology from SNL, Crenshaw did call on the show to donate $1 million to organizations that help veterans.
“What passes for humor these days is not what used to pass for humor and that’s the big tragedy in all of this,” Crenshaw added. “Why can’t we just be funny again? Why can’t we give the American people a break and separate humor from politics?”
One comedian who seems to agree is Davidson’s SNL castmate Kenan Thompson, who reacted to the joke during an appearance on the Today show. Asked if the joke “crossed the line,” Thompson, who is the longest-running SNL cast member of all time, replied, “It seems it.” Noting that his own father is a Vietnam veteran, Thompson added, “I personally would never necessarily go there, but it’s tough when you’re fishing for jokes.”
While he “respects” any stand-up comedian’s freedom to experiment, Thompson said, “when you miss the mark, you’re offending people so you really have to be a little more aware, in my opinion.” And Davidson “definitely missed the mark,” he added.
And yet no one—not Crenshaw, nor Thompson—seemed quite as offended by the joke as former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who has plenty of reason to dislike Saturday Night Live.
“This is what Lorne Michaels thinks is funny,” Spicer said on Fox Business. “It’s disgusting, it’s over the top, that’s not even close to being funny or humorous at all.” From there, in an apparent allusion to Megyn Kelly, Spicer said that after everyone at “holier-than-thou” NBC has been fired “in the name of transparency and doing the right thing, Lorne Michaels needs to be fired.”
Forty-four seasons into the show’s run, it would take a lot more than one bad joke to get the TV legend removed from his hallowed post.