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While I acknowledge that "I Believe I Can Fly" is a song that can be empowering for many people, I've never been a big R. Kelly fan. His music has never really been that appealing to me, and once he started facing some serious legal trouble—dating back to 1996—I simply get a bad vibe from him.
However, that does not mean his recent legal troubles, where he has been charged with 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse and arrested as a result of allegations involving four victims—three of whom were minors—should be used as sources of humor.
Like many, I saw at least bits and pieces of his sit down interview with #GayleKing, whom I've always enjoyed. I was first introduced to Gayle King as "Oprah's best friend." It wasn't until much later that I discovered she was a really good journalist in her own right. The most recent shot that went viral on social media—where King is sitting still and composed while #RKelly had to be physically restrained by someone else—only deepened my respect for her and heightened my concern as far as Kelly was concerned.
When you're facing charges, especially charges as serious as the ones Kelly is facing, I would expect some sort of emotional reaction. I would expect tears and emphatic denial. Kelly became unhinged, complete with cursing and sweeping physical gestures, and I could only imagine what living with this man might be like.
When I read that #SaturdayNightLive's #PeteDavidson made "jokes" on "Weekend Update" about the R. Kelly situation, likening it to the ongoing issues of sexual abuse scandals the Catholic church has endured, my first reaction was shock. I know that Davidson certainly has had his own issues where he's said things on the show that did not appear to be well conceived, but his jokes this time seemed to go too far.
I'm not saying this out of any sort of sympathy for R. Kelly. Far from it, if the man is guilty of even one instance of sexual abuse and especially sexual abuse of a minor, he deserves to rot in jail. However, Pete Davidson's jokes about R. Kelly's sexual abuse charges made me concerned for the alleged victims.
Acknowledging that sexual abuse has even occurred is incredibly difficult and can cause the victim's emotions to become even more heightened than they probably are in the moment. Having someone make jokes about a situation that is not even a little bit funny adds further insult. I completely get the fact that Saturday Night Live is a sketch comedy show and that it can be satirical, but when you are using sexual abuse victims as fodder, that's insensitive and incredibly serious.
Certainly, Pete Davidson can't have everyone on SNL and apologize to them directly as he did when he joked about Dan Crenshaw, the military veteran who currently serves in Congress. I also realize that the sketch involving R. Kelly's interview with Gayle King was more focused on how ridiculously over the top the singer's behavior was. That sketch, however, did not joke about sexual abuse victims.
In making jokes about R. Kelly and comparing his situation to that of the Catholic church, Pete Davidson has, intentionally or not, struck out at the alleged victims here, and that is not cool. While Kelly's behavior with regards to his current legal troubles is certainly serious and can be seen as bizarre in some respects, jokes about the alleged victims—even implied—should not even be on the table.
Mr. Davidson, you can—and should—do better.