The fallout from Roseanne Barr's tweet comparing former Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett, a black woman, to an ape has been swift and decisive. ABC has canceled Roseanne, Barr's show.
"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 wrote in a terse statement. ABC is potentially leaving hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue on the table by canceling Roseanne, which it had previously renewed for Season 11. The show was the top-rated series of the 2017-18 season, with a reported 1 in 10 Americans watching the Season 10 premiere.
Early Tuesday morning, Barr tweeted "muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj," in reference to Jarrett, who was a senior advisor to Barack Obama throughout his presidency. Barr, a vocal conservative conspiracy theorist, was both making a false claim that Jarrett is a member of the radical Sunni Islamist group and comparing a black woman to an ape. The tweet has since been deleted.
Denunciation for Barr's tweet came quickly, with Roseanne writer Wanda Sykes announcing she was leaving the show and co-star/executive producer Sara Gilbert calling Barr's tweet "abhorrent" and saying Barr does not speak for the rest of the cast and crew. And before it was even noon on the west coast, ABC dropped the hammer by canceling the show.
Bob Iger, CEO of ABC's parent company Disney, said canceling the show was "the right thing," and retweeted Dungey's statement.
Roseanne showrunner Bruce Helford also released a statement denouncing Barr's tweet. "On behalf of all the writers and producers, we worked incredibly hard to create an amazing show. I was personally horrified and saddened by the comments and in no way do they reflect the values of the people who worked so hard to make this the iconic show that it is."
Valerie Jarrett was already scheduled to speak on an MSNBC town hall special about racism on Tuesday, and she weighed in on Roseanne during the taping. "I think we have to turn it into a teaching moment," she said. "I'm fine. I'm worried about all the people out there who don't have a circle of friends and followers who come right to their defense. The person who's walking down a street, minding their own business, and they see somebody cling to their purse or want to cross the street. Or every black parent I know who has a boy who has to sit down and have a conversation, 'the talk,' as we call it."
Shortly after the cancellation, Barr's talent agency ICM Partners dropped her as a client, Variety reports. Deadline reports that reruns of old episodes of Roseanne will be pulled from Viacom-owned cable networks starting tomorrow.
Before the cancellation, Barr apologized for her tweet, writing: "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." Previously she had doubled down on the tweet, saying "It's a joke" in response to a CNN reporter who criticized her.
But it's not really a joke. Barr is a vocal Trump supporter with a long history of unhinged and incendiary right-wing conspiracy theory social media posts. The Roseanne revival itself has had an uneasy relationship with race, including a plot about Roseanne Conner suspecting her Muslim neighbors were terrorists. Barr's Tuesday tweet is not an outlier, but part of a long history of ugliness on Barr's part that ABC was willing to tolerate until it wasn't anymore.
Tuesday night, BuzzFeed's Kate Aurthur shared a longer apology from Barr. "I deeply regret my comments from late last night on Twitter. Above all, I want to apologize to Valerie Jarrett, as well as to ABC and the cast and crew of the Roseanne show," Barr wrote. "I am sorry for making a thoughtless joke that does not reflect my values — I love all people and am very sorry. Today my words caused hundreds of hardworking people to lose their jobs. I also sincerely apologize to the audience that has embraced my work for decades. I apologize from the bottom of my heart and hope that you can find it in your hearts to forgive me."
She also claimed in a since-deleted post that she was under the influence of the prescription sleep aid Ambien when she tweeted about Jarrett, which prompted a response Wednesday morning from drug maker Sanofi which said "racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication."
Barr spent the rest of the night retweeting posts defending her, including one from a fan that claims Roseanne is not racist because she didn't know Valerie Jarrett was black, which is a very unlikely claim and also not the point, and a post calling her a martyr, as well as a conspiracy theory that Democratic donor George Soros is a Nazi collaborator. So take any apology with a big grain of salt.