Over the weekend, Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson took a break from talking about ex-girlfriend Ariana Grande (jk, he didn’t!!) to apologize for a joke he’d made on the last show about former Navy SEAL and congressman-elect Dan Crenshaw. If you somehow managed to miss it, Davidson mocked the Texas Republican—who lost an eye while serving in Afghanistan—on-air with this earth-shattering zinger: “You may be surprised to hear he’s a congressional candidate for Texas and not a hitman in a porno movie.”
People got very upset! There were angry tweets from everyone from Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a veteran herself, to Sean Spicer condemning the remark and calling for Davidson to apologize. (Although Crenshaw himself told TMZ that he didn’t think that was necessary.)
This outrage cycle lasted throughout last week, even as Crenshaw won his race. Then on Saturday, Davidson rolled onto the “Weekend Update” set with a mea culpa: “On behalf of the show and myself, I apologize,” he said. “I mean this from the bottom of my heart. It was a poor choice of words. The man is a war hero and he deserves all the respect in the world, and if any good came of this, maybe it was that for one day the left and the right finally came together to agree on something: that I’m a dick.”
Then Crenshaw himself appeared and the two shared some laughs:
Boy, did this make a lot of bad people happy!
You need only look at the people tweeting about how great this was and how it was an incredible moment for civility to know that it’s an extremely bad development. Pete Davidson is a comedian. He made a lame joke about a public figure. Who cares? Meanwhile, Dan Crenshaw is about to start his term serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. He’s already being covered as a “face of the future” for the right. His platform is pro-gun, anti-abortion, “border security, border security, border security,” pro-religious freedom, and anti-Affordable Care Act, among other tenets of the Trump-era Republican Party. Perhaps even more telling, though: He was an admin on a far-right Facebook group called “Tea Party” that trafficked in conspiracy theories and racism.
SNL didn’t need to make this grand gesture. Maybe the show was getting pressure from NBC. Maybe Davidson was actually feeling regretful. Maybe they all buckled under the firestorm of indignation over a bad joke. Maybe they thought the apology would make for good press. Whatever tipped them over the edge, the show ultimately took the bait, continuing their sterling track record of giving a platform to the worst Republicans and failing spectacularly when it comes to tackling this moment in American politics.
So congrats, SNL, you made conservatives extremely happy! But if you’re so concerned with doing the right thing, shining a light on Crenshaw’s dangerous politics might be a better place to start.