President of ABC Entertainment Channing Dungey, the first black executive to head a major American TV network, made a strong statement on Tuesday by firing one of ABC’s most important stars, Roseanne Barr, over a racist tweet she posted about former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett. But Dungey, a private person who rarely speaks to the press publicly, went further than just firing the star of Roseanne, her network’s highest-rated comedy show in years. While both of Dungey’s superiors, Ben Sherwood, the president of the Disney-ABC Television Group, and his boss, Disney chief executive Robert A. Iger, backed the move to fire Barr, it was Dungey who delivered an uncompromising and unequivocal public explanation for why they felt the need to take action.
“Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show,” said Dungey.
On social media, people in the entertainment industry — including Grey’s Anatomy producer Krista Vernoff — took to Twitter to hold up Dungey as an example of the importance of diversity in leadership. Dungey, who helped produce films such as Space Jam as a Warner Production executive and played a major role in getting Shonda Rhimes’ Grey’s Anatomy onto television while working for Disney, also got personal shoutouts from industry heavy hitters such as A Wrinkle in Time and 13th director Ava Duvernay, black-ish creator Kenya Barris and Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis.
I have never been more proud to work for @ABCNetwork
THANK YOU Channing Dungey for being my one little slice of hope for our country today.
— Krista Vernoff (@KristaVernoff) May 29, 2018
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) May 29, 2018
— kenya barris (@funnyblackdude) May 29, 2018
Dungey had faced criticism over the decision to reboot Roseanne, especially in the wake of its creator’s increasingly offensive views and public outbursts. But with Barr’s abrupt firing, Dungey made it clear that no matter how successful someone is, endorsing racism is something that will no longer be tolerated. Unless, perhaps, one were to run for President of the United States.