Comedian Roseanne Barr found herself engulfed in a firestorm Tuesday after she posted a racist remark on Twitter, and then found herself without a hit TV show after the ABC television network responded to the uproar by canceling her revived sitcom, which had been a ratings success.
Barr started the day by taking aim at Valerie Jarrett, a White House adviser to former President Barack Obama, saying in a tweet that if the “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.” The tweet has since been deleted, but the backlash and ensuing fallout was swift.
When CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski pointed out that ABC executives have been trying to ignore some of Barr’s borderline incendiary comments on Twitter recently, she responded by saying that the attack on Jarrett was “a joke.” She also defended the comment, The New York Times reported, saying, “ISLAM is not a RACE, lefties. Islam includes EVERY RACE of people.” Jarrett is African-American and was born to American parents in Iran. It wasn’t clear why Barr decided to lash out at Jarrett in the first place.
It's a joke-
— Roseanne Barr (@therealroseanne) May 29, 2018
Barr also made incendiary remarks on Tuesday about Chelsea Clinton, suggesting that her middle name is Soros, a reference to the billionaire hedge fund manage George Soros, who is reviled by conservatives for donating to liberal causes. As CNN pointed out, Clinton responded to Barr’s broadside, and Barr snapped back with a falsehood about Soros.
Soon after, as the denunciations mounted, Barr changed her tune and issued a full-throated apology, saying, “I apologize to Valerie Jarrett and to all Americans. I am truly sorry for making a bad joke about her politics and her looks. I should have known better. Forgive me-my joke was in bad taste.” She added that she planned to stop using Twitter.
But the damage had already been done. Wanda Sykes, a consulting producer on the Roseanne revival, abruptly announced on Twitter that she was quitting the show effectively immediately. At least one cast member, Sara Gilbert, expressed her disappointment at the “abhorrent” remarks.
Roseanne’s recent comments about Valerie Jarrett, and so much more, are abhorrent and do not reflect the beliefs of our cast and crew or anyone associated with our show. I am disappointed in her actions to say the least.
— sara gilbert (@THEsaragilbert) May 29, 2018
And by early afternoon, ABC executives swung the axe, Variety reported. “Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show,” ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey said in a statement. Robert Iger, the chairman of Disney, ABC’s parent company, publicly agreed with the decision, saying on Twitter that, “There was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing.”
From Channing Dungey, President of ABC Entertainment: "Roseanne's Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show."
There was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing.
— Robert Iger (@RobertIger) May 29, 2018
Barr has long been a provocative figure on Twitter — and off the social media platform. But the revival of her 1990s sitcom turned out to be a smashing success for ABC in terms of ratings. In the show, which picked up the characters’ storylines 21 years after the sitcom went off the air, Barr’s title character is an ardent Trump supporter, much like herself in real life. After debuting to huge ratings in March, Trump actually tweeted his congratulations to Barr. After this P.R. nightmare, however, it’s pretty clear that the cost of that ratings surge may outweigh any short-term benefits there may have been.