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Did Pete Davidson’s Bad Eye Patch Joke On Saturday Night Live Help Republican Dan Crenshaw Win a Contested Seat?
Saturday Night Live has no problem talking shit about some of the more evil members of the Republican party. Back before he was kicked out of the Trump administration, Steve Bannon was literally portrayed as the Grim Reaper. Whether they’re Zodiac Killer Ted Cruz or lizard man Stephen Miller—these scumbags often deserve everything that’s coming to them.
But one segment from Saturday Night Live’s most recent Weekend Update went a little too far. In it, Pete Davidson went through and mocked the appearance of a number of Republican candidates, which was mostly fine—until he got to Dan Crenshaw, who was running for a seat in Texas’ 2nd Congressional District. Crenshaw lost his eye in Afghanistan in 2012 and wears a patch, which Davidson mocked, saying he looked like “a hitman in a porno movie” then adding, “I’m sorry, I know he lost his eye in war or whatever. Whatever.”
It’s a bad joke! Regardless of someone’s politics, joking about a veteran’s war wounds should be off-limits, and both Democrats and Republicans were outraged by his comment.
In fact, even Davidson’s co-star Kenan Thompson said the joke went too far. “My father’s a veteran, Vietnam, and I personally would never necessarily go there,” he said. “It’s tough when you’re fishing for jokes. That’s how stand-ups feel that there’s no real filters out there in the world when they’re trying to go for a great joke or whatever. We try to respect that, but at the same time when you miss the mark, you’re offending people and so you have to really be a little more aware, in my opinion.”
On Tuesday night, Crenshaw won his race against Democrat Todd Litton. During his acceptance speech, Crenshaw credited Davidson’s joke for giving him a boost in popularity. Referring to an advisor who persuaded him to run, Crenshaw said “He’s upset because the recent Saturday Night Live controversy has resulted in me having more Twitter followers than (him).”
Going into this election, Democrats considered Texas’ 2nd Congressional District a key battleground that could flip without an incumbent running. As the Houston Chronicle reported last month, demographic changes, and weak 2016 results for Trump, showed the 2nd district ready for change. Democrats thought they could flip the seat and Even Crenshaw was worried he could lose. Though it was a key battleground district, it wasn’t getting quite as much national attention as some other races. That is, until Saturday Night Live this weekend.
After Davidson’s joke, Crenshaw was thrust into the national spotlight, with both Democrats and Republicans coming to his defense. He appeared on TMZ and CNN and Fox. Then, by Tuesday, he won as all his surrounding districts in Houston went blue. And it wasn’t a landslide win by any means, with Crenshaw winning with 53 percent to Litton’s 45.4 percent.
It’s impossible to say that Davidson’s joke helped Crenshaw win, but we also can’t say it hurt the Republican candidate either. What Saturday Night Live—and its fellow NBC program The Tonight Show—should have learned is that even the smallest political jokes can backfire spectacularly.