ABC cancels ‘Roseanne’ after star’s racist Twitter rant
(CNN Money) — ABC canceled its hit sitcom “Roseanne” on Tuesday after the show’s biggest star, Roseanne Barr, went on a racist Twitter rant.
“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.
Disney CEO Bob Iger added on Twitter that “There was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing.”
The cancellation stunned Hollywood. The revival of “Roseanne” premiered to huge ratings just three months ago. Pre-production was already underway on a second season, which was scheduled for Tuesdays at 8 p.m. this fall.
But then Barr went on her Tuesday morning tweetstorm, demonizing Valerie Jarrett, Chelsea Clinton and George Soros.
ABC went silent for several hours while deciding what to do. By late morning on the West Coast, executives had decided to boot the reboot.
When asked why ABC ultimately decided to cancel the show, a Disney source said, “It’s a question of right and wrong. And it’s a question of our company’s values.”
Reactions to the decision were overwhelming and largely positive.
Congressman John Lewis thanked ABC saying that “There is not any room in our society for racism or bigotry.”
“Some things apparently are more important than money,” even for a network like ABC, “and that’s heartening,” CNN’s Van Jones said on the air.
Before ABC made the decision, some of Barr’s colleagues publicly rebuked her.
One of the show’s consulting producers, Wanda Sykes, said she’s done with the show. “I will not be returning to @RoseanneOnABC,” Sykes tweeted.
And Sara Gilbert, who plays Barr’s daughter on the ABC sitcom, tweeted that Barr’s comments are “abhorrent and do not reflect the beliefs of our cast and crew or anyone associated with our show.”
Gilbert added: “This is incredibly sad and difficult for all of us, as we’ve created a show that we believe in, are proud of, and that audiences love — one that is separate and apart from the opinions and words of one cast member.”
Actress Emma Kenney, who played Roseanne’s granddaughter on the reboot, tweeted that she was in the process of quitting the show when she found out that it had been canceled. “I feel so empowered by @iamwandasykes, Channing Dungey and those at ABC standing up against abuse of power and lack of values. Bullies do not win. Ever,” she tweeted. (Kenney later deleted this.)
Barr is notorious for tweeting about pro-Trump conspiracy theories and other controversial topics.
But even by her low standards, Tuesday’s remarks were egregious.
In one of Tuesday’s tweets, she wrote, “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.”
Barr was responding to a comment about Valerie Jarrett, a top former aide to President Obama. She replied to CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski and said it was “a joke.”
But Barr later deleted the tweet and tweeted an apology to Jarrett and “all Americans.”
“I am truly sorry for making a bad joke about her politics and her looks,” Barr tweeted. “I should have known better. Forgive me — my joke was in bad taste.” Barr then said she’s leaving Twitter.
Jarrett declined to comment.
Social media lit up with criticism of both Barr and ABC, with some demanding a response from the broadcast network.
Barr also made comments on Twitter Tuesday about Chelsea Clinton, tweeting, “Chelsea Soros Clinton.” She later replied in the comments that Clinton is “married to Soros nephew.” Soros is a billionaire liberal benefactor who has been the subject to many right-wing conspiracy theories over the years.
Clinton responded to Barr shortly after.
“Good morning Roseanne – my given middle name is Victoria. I imagine George Soros’s nephews are lovely people. I’m just not married to one,” she wrote.
Barr responded back to Clinton saying, “Sorry to have tweeted incorrect info about you! Please forgive me!”
She then continued, “By the way, George Soros is a nazi who turned in his fellow Jews 2 be murdered in German concentration camps & stole their wealth-were you aware of that? But, we all make mistakes, right Chelsea?”
This is a conspiracy theory about Soros that has been debunked many times. The fact-checking site Snopes called it “false” back in 2016.
“Roseanne” was one of the highest-rated new shows of the season, making Barr is one of the network’s biggest stars.
About 18 million live viewers watched the premiere episode in March.
President Trump praised the debut of the show saying, “Over 18 million people! And it was about us!” The President also called Barr after the premiere to congratulate her.
Later, the show saw its audience come back down to earth, but its finale still nabbed roughly 10 million live viewers, a huge achievement for ABC.
Just two weeks ago, Barr was the centerpiece of ABC’s upfront presentation to advertisers in New York.
But on Tuesday it became clear that some major advertisers would shun “Roseanne” in the future.
In the past, ABC executives have privately said that they hold their noses when Barr tweets.
They know some of her posts have been problematic — full of pro-Trump conspiracy theories that mislead her fans. But not this time.
“Enough was enough,” the Disney source said.
(CNN Money) — For ABC, getting back into the “Roseanne” game wasn’t such a good business move after all. And if network officials are surprised by that — and the fresh controversy that triggered the show’s sudden, shocking cancellation — they really have only themselves to blame.
Roseanne Barr’s latest salvo on Twitter — which included a racist joke about former Obama administration aide Valerie Jarrett, and repeating a smear about billionaire George Soros oddly directed at Chelsea Clinton — brought the sitcom to a crashing end.
In a statement, ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey called Barr’s remarks “abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show.”
ABC and its corporate parent, the Walt Disney Co. clearly concluded that the benefits of being associated with Barr — and the criticism they will receive from her fans — weren’t going to be worth the headaches and backlash, which would almost surely have included pressure tactics against the show’s advertisers.
Disney CEO Robert Iger defended the decision, saying on Twitter, “There was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing.”
Simply put, Barr was the loosest of loose cannons. And Disney was no doubt left pondering what the next potentially show-ending crisis might be, if not this one.
The huge ratings for the premiere, moreover, had cooled considerably. As MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell suggested on Twitter prior to ABC’s announcement, “Roseanne’s ratings aren’t worth today’s burden for Disney & ABC. They don’t have to be brave to cancel her. Maybe they just have to be good business executives.”
Barr had already apologized, but that apparently wasn’t enough. Part of that surely had to do with a sense that there was no escaping the baggage that the actress/comic brought to the show with her social-media persona.
Barr is hardly the first big series star to create problems for a network, including her prior stint on ABC, which began in 1988. CBS, for example, initially stood behind Charlie Sheen — at the time the star of one of its most popular series, “Two and a Half Men” — through a series of scandals and flare-ups before finally deciding to replace him with Ashton Kutcher in 2011, after eight seasons.
Still, “Roseanne” is unique in certain ways, starting with the fact that the distinction between Roseanne Barr and the fictional Roseanne Conner — a character rooted in her stand-up act — has always been difficult to reconcile, as critic Matthew Gilbert pointed out.
What remains clear is that ABC had every reason to be cautious about embarking on the project — not only because of Barr’s tweets, but how notoriously contentious her first run with the program was, producing near-constant turnover among the writing staff.
ABC officials — including Iger, who ran ABC Entertainment in the early 1990s — can hardly pretend that they were unaware about Barr’s social-media presence and fondness for promoting wild conspiracy theories. In fact, the question came up last August, when Dungey met with press at the TV Critics Assn. tour after plans for the revival were announced.
Asked if she was concerned that Barr might say something “that’s going to make this new show untenable,” Dungey responded, “I try to just worry about the things that I can control.”
At the time, the response elicited laughter from the room. For ABC, the situation no doubt feels less amusing now.