Roseanne Barr’s attempt to bridge the political divide came crashing down Tuesday, when ABC canceled her rebooted hit sitcom hours after the television star had sent a racially tinged tweet.
The cancellation comes as a blow to President Trump’s supporters who said “Roseanne” accurately represented their political perspective.
Responding to a comment about Valerie Jarrett, a former aide to President Obama, Miss Barr tweeted, “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.” She initially defended the tweet as a “joke” — noting that “ISLAM is not a RACE, lefties” — but then issued an apology to “Ms. Jarrett and all Americans.”
“I am truly sorry for making a bad joke about her politics and her looks,” Miss Barr tweeted. “I should have known better. Forgive me-my joke was in bad taste.”
But it was too little too late. Within hours, ABC announced that “Roseanne” would not return for a second season.
“Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show,” Channing Dungey, president of ABC Entertainment, said in a statement.
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Bob Iger, CEO of the Walt Disney Co., which owns ABC, said there was “only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing to do.”
Ms. Jarrett said that Mr. Iger personally called her to let her know the show would be canceled. She said the situation was a “teaching moment.”
“I’m fine,” she said Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Everyday Racism” town hall. “I’m worried about all the people out there who don’t have a circle of friends and followers coming to their defense.”
Later Tuesday, Miss Barr took to Twitter again after her supporters criticized ABC, “The View” co-host Joy Behar and ESPN’s Keith Olbermann, The Associated Press reported.
“I did something unforgiveable so do not defend me,” Miss Barr tweeted. “It was 2 in the morning and I was ambien tweeting-it was memorial day too-i went 2 far & do not want it defended-it was egregious Indefensible. I made a mistake I wish I hadn’t but…don’t defend it please.”
The sitcom, which ended the first season of its successful reboot last week, portrayed the blue-collar Conner family struggling to make ends meet, buried under mountains of credit card debt and unable to afford rising health care costs.
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The family also was divided by the 2016 presidential election and its aftermath.
In the reboot’s opening episode, Roseanne Conner defends her vote for Mr. Trump in an argument with her sister, Jackie, who wears a “Nasty Woman” T-shirt.
“He talked about jobs, Jackie,” Roseanne says of the president. “He said he’d shake things up. I mean, this might come as a complete shock to you, but we almost lost our house the way things are going.”
The nine-episode reboot drew massive ratings and was the season’s top scripted show on broadcast television.
The opening episode drew more than 18 million viewers, the largest audience for a sitcom in more than three years, and averaged more than 10 million viewers per episode.
Mr. Trump even said he called Miss Barr to congratulate her on the show’s success.
ABC faced significant pressure to cancel the show in the hours after Miss Barr’s tweet.
Before the show was canceled, several people affiliated with “Roseanne” said they were leaving in response to Miss Barr’s tweet.
The comedian Wanda Sykes, a consulting producer for the show, said in a brief tweet that she would “not be returning.”
Emma Kenney, who portrayed Roseanne’s granddaughter on the show, said she called her manager on Tuesday morning to quit the show, only to find out that it already had been canceled.
“I am hurt, embarrassed, and disappointed,” Miss Kenney tweeted. “The racist and distasteful comments from Roseanne are inexcusable.”
Sara Gilbert, who returned to play Roseanne’s daughter in the show’s reboot, said Miss Barr’s comments were “abhorrent and do not reflect the beliefs of our cast and crew or anyone associated with our show.”
“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,” Miss Gilbert tweeted.
Miss Barr’s talent agency, ICM Partners, also said it had dropped her.
“What she wrote is antithetical to our core values, both as individuals and as an agency,” the group said in a statement. “Consequently, we have notified her that we will not represent her. Effective immediately, Roseanne Barr is no longer a client.”
Civil rights activists also were applying pressure on ABC to pull the plug.
DeRay Mckesson, a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, questioned how desperate the network was to “profit from Roseanne’s racism?”
“We know racism sells in this country, it always has,” Mr. Mckesson tweeted. “But you don’t have to participate in it. This apology is meaningless. Cancel Roseanne.”
In a tweet, the Rev. Al Sharpton said Miss Barr’s comments were “racist and inexcusable. ABC must take action NOW!”
Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, said Miss Barr’s comments were “appalling and reminiscent of a horrific time in our history when racism was not only acceptable but promoted by Hollywood.”
“We applaud ABC for taking a stand against racism by canceling Roseanne today,” Mr. Johnson said in a statement following the show’s cancellation. “We commend the network and its president Channing Dungey for placing the values of diversity, inclusion, and respect for humanity above ratings.”
Rep. John Lewis, Georgia Democrat, said ABC “did the right thing.”
“There is not any room in our society for racism or bigotry,” Mr. Lewis said in a statement.
Yet some say there is a double standard in the entertainment industry when it comes to offensive speech.
Radio host Clay Travis wondered why Mr. Olbermann continues to be employed by ESPN, which also is owned by Disney, despite his habit of going on profanity-laced Twitter tirades directed at Mr. Trump. Mr. Travis said Disney has treated “very similar speech dissimilarly based on whether or not it agrees with the content.”
“If you are a left-winger, you can say whatever you want and you have no punishment for anything you say,” Mr. Travis said on Fox Sports Radio’s “Outkick the Coverage.” “The moment you are conservative and you say anything, you get fired.”
Greg Gutfeld, co-host of Fox News’ “The Five,” said ABC was justified in canceling “Roseanne.” But he also wondered why Joy Reid, who apologized for writing homophobic articles on her now-defunct blog, continues to have a show on MSNBC.
“Joy Reid has got an amazing second chance going right now after a paper trail of homophobia,” Mr. Gutfeld said.
Indeed, Ms. Reid was one of the commentators MSNBC enlisted on Tuesday to react to the cancellation of “Roseanne.”
“It’s fraught because, I think for a lot of Roseanne’s fans who now are really sort of in a big Venn diagram with Trump fans, they see this as no big deal, that this is something that you should be able to say,” Ms. Reid said on “Andrea Mitchell Reports.” “Why can’t you say it? It’s just jokes. Why are people taking it to heart? That’s part of the problem, is that you have a certain set of people who feel that you should be able to speak this way.”
• Bradford Richardson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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