Roseanne show axed over insensitive tweet

Roseanne Barr took the blame in another tweet, apologising to "the hundreds of people and wonderful writers (all liberal) and talented actors who lost their jobs on my show due to my stupid tweet".
Roseanne Barr took the blame in another tweet, apologising to "the hundreds of people and wonderful writers (all liberal) and talented actors who lost their jobs on my show due to my stupid tweet".PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LOS ANGELES • Maybe Roseanne Barr thought that since her character on TV sitcom Roseanne could be controversial, she could deliver her own punch lines in real life too.

But on Tuesday, she was knocked out instead after she compared a former black Obama administration official to an ape on Twitter.

Disney-owned ABC swiftly axed her rebooted show - even if it was the network's most widely watched prime-time programme for the TV season that ended last week.

United States President Donald Trump had cited its huge viewership as evidence his supporters, who include Barr, want shows that speak to their concerns.

ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey said: "Roseanne's Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values and we have decided to cancel her show."

In a since deleted comment on Twitter, Barr, 65, compared Ms Valerie Jarrett, a former adviser to former US president Barack Obama, to an ape in her "muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby = vj" tweet.

The tweet followed a Twitter conversation referring to a Wikileaks allegation that the Central Intelligence Agency spied on French presidential candidates during the Obama administration.

As a storm broke over her comments, Barr, 65, apologised "for making a bad joke" about Ms Jarrett, who was born in Iran to American parents.

She later issued a fuller apology to Ms Jarrett and "all Americans", writing: "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."

But the damage had been done.

Sara Gilbert, who plays daughter Darlene on Roseanne, called Barr's comments "abhorrent".

Emma Kenney, who plays Gilbert's on-screen daughter, said she had decided to leave the series even before it got the chop.

Viacom said it would pull reruns of the 1990s Roseanne episodes from its Paramount, TV Land and CMT cable networks.

The original Roseanne ran from 1988 to 1997, featuring a blue-collar family. It was praised for its realistic portrayal of working-class life.

The current Roseanne was ABC's biggest hit of the 2017 to 2018 season, drawing an average 18.7 million viewers. It aired nine episodes from March until this month, generating US$22.8 million (S$30.7 million) in advertising revenue, or 2.5 per cent of the network's total for the season, according to iSpot data.

On Tuesday, Ms Jarrett, 61, said Disney chief executive Bob Iger had called her before ABC announced the cancellation.

"I think we have to turn it into a teaching moment," she said at a taping of an MSNBC townhall event called Everyday Racism In America.

But she added: "I'm fine. I'm worried about all the people out there who don't have a circle of friends and followers coming to their defence."

Reverend Al Sharpton, who appeared alongside Ms Jarrett in the townhall, had harsh words for Barr and Mr Trump.

"When you have a president who started his political career around birtherism (a campaign questioning Mr Obama's citizenship by birth)... people like Roseanne feel they're empowered," he said.

On Tuesday, an ABC executive also expressed regret over the loss of jobs from the axing of the sitcom.

Barr herself took the blame in another tweet, saying: "I just want to apologise to the hundreds of people and wonderful writers (all liberal) and talented actors who lost their jobs on my show due to my stupid tweet."

REUTERS, NYTIMES, WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2018, with the headline 'Roseanne show axed over insensitive tweet'. Print Edition | Subscribe