In a surprisingly swift and decisive move, ABC has canceled Roseanne after its star, Roseanne Barr, put out an unambiguously racist tweet about Valerie Jarrett, a former senior adviser to Barack Obama.
Barr compared Jarrett, who is black, to “Planet of the Apes” and the Muslim Brotherhood. The tweet has since been deleted. Barr later apologized for it, claiming it was a bad joke and that she was now “leaving Twitter.”
It took ABC all of four hours after Barr’s tweet to take an axe to the successful sitcom, a revival of the series that featured much of the same cast from its run in the 1990s. ABC president Channing Dungey’s statement was clear:
The actress and writer was also dropped as a client by her talent agency, ICM Partners, which said in a statement that, “What she wrote is antithetical to our core values, both as individuals and as an agency. Consequently, we have notified her that we will not represent her.”
Barr’s Twitter feed is filled with conspiracy theories and barely intelligible political rants, and she appears to have escalated things recently. In addition to the tweet about Jarrett, Barr went on an unhinged tweetstorm about the Clintons, and repeated debunked, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about philanthropist and activist George Soros. In both real life and on her rebooted show, Barr is an unabashed supporter of US president Donald Trump.
Revived for a 10th season in March, Roseanne debuted to a massive viewership: More than 18 million Americans watched the premiere. The show was revered for depicting a “blue collar” American family. Its ratings gradually slipped over the course of the season (about 10 million people watched the latest episode), but they were still relatively strong at the time of its cancelation.
ABC’s decision to cancel Roseanne was shocking given the show’s success. The network had until now overlooked Barr’s long history of racist and anti-Semitic behavior. Her tweet today was not even the first time that Barr compared a black woman to an “ape.” Through it all, ABC had not publicly addressed Barr’s behavior. The actress tweeted earlier this month that she had the support of the network, and that it had neither censored nor silenced her. No one from ABC has yet commented on why the series was rebooted in the first place, given Barr’s history.
Before the decision was officially made, Wanda Sykes, a writer and producer on the series, announced she was leaving the show. Dungey and the network were likely under extra pressure to punish Roseanne since it decided not to air an episode of the sitcom Blackish that discussed several timely political issues, including kneeling during the national anthem at football games.
Bob Iger, CEO of Disney (which owns the ABC network), tweeted his support of the cancellation. Some of Barr’s co-stars had tweeted their disappointment with the comedienne for her racist comments, saying they didn’t reflect the show as a whole.
The show, of course, is called Roseanne. Rather, it used to be.