The “Roseanne” show, the highest-rated and most-watched television series this season, was canceled Tuesday by ABC after its star, Rosanne Barr, tweeted an insult of Valerie Jarrett, Barack Obama’s confidante.
Barr wrote of Jarrett, the highly influential former senior adviser to Obama: “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.”
Barr apologized a short time later, via Twitter, stating: “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.”
Barr, the comedienne-actress who’s made a reputation over the years for bad taste, was starring in this year’s reboot of the program. She already had taken fire from the left for her on-screen and outspoken support for President Trump’s policies on jobs, taxes and other issues.
But Channing Dungey, ABC president, said Barr’s tweet went beyond her standard of bad taste.
“Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show,” Dungey said, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
The Reporter said axing the “Roseanne” revival was no small decision for ABC.
“The rebooted comedy debuted its nine-episode run midseason and finished as the TV season’s No. 1 scripted series on all of broadcast. ‘Roseanne’ had been averaging a 5.5 rating among adults 18-49 and 19.3 million viewers with live-plus-3 lifts. With a full week of time-shifting, those numbers climbed to a 6.4 rating in the key demo and 22.1 million viewers. Either way, ‘Roseanne’ was the highest-rated and most watched series of the broadcast season, eclipsing NBC’s ‘This Is Us’ and CBS’ ‘Big Bang Theory’ – which had been in a heated battle for top status.”
Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of ABC-owned Walt Disney, added, “There was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing.”
When the show was revived, after an absence of 20 years, it shot to No. 1 in its time slot.
Fox News reported at the time the show, starring a pro-Trump title character, was “the highest-rated regularly-scheduled scripted show of the last few seasons, as well as the highest-rated sitcom in recent memory.”
Executive producer Sara Gilbert said Barr’s comments “are abhorrent and do not reflect the beliefs of our cast and crew or anyone associated with our show.”
“I am disappointed in her actions to say the least.”
She explained: “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.”
The report said Wanda Sykes, a consultant, would not return.
The original show took on controversial topics, and the reboot was no different.
The Reporter described how it “famously opened its new season with an episode that explored the country’s divisive response to President Trump, whom Barr has publicly supported.”
“The storyline between Roseanne and her sister, Jackie (Laurie Metcalf), was designed to reflect the debate among Trump’s working-class base and spur a larger discussion.”
Laila Lalami, writing at the Nation, wrote just days ago that the public shaming of those who give offense online is “working.”
She described the case of a lawyer who “threatened to call ICE on the Spanish-speaking food workers and customers in New York.”
His politically incorrect opinion soon was met with plunging “customer ratings” for his law practice. “He was hounded by reporters … his corporate landlord terminated his business lease,” the commentary said.
“The public shaming that followed his rant could have a salutary effect: Maybe, just maybe, racists will think twice before making frivolous reports or issuing threats,” she wrote.
Lalami wrote that even though the opinions, including those held by lawyer Aaron Schlossberg, are “protected from government interference by the First Amendment.”
“But that right doesn’t protect him from the social consequences of his speech, including disruption and discomfort,” the columnist said.
Jessica Paterson of the Appleton Institute wrote bluntly in the Adelaide Review that “public shaming is a relatively new form of mass social justice where virtual lynch mobs act as social media judge, jury and executioner, but is it a force for good?”
She continued: “Fans of pop-science author Jon Ronson will be familiar with his 2015 book, ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.’ Ronson addresses public shaming as a form of mass social justice and documents some extreme accounts of lives ruined by the phenomenon. For example, the story of Justine Sacco, publicist and low-key Twitter user. Sacco tweeted a mildly offensive joke to her 170 followers before getting on an 11-hour flight. When her flight landed, Sacco discovered she was the number one worldwide trend on Twitter. Googled 1.2 million times in a matter of days, her employer’s website was attacked – and told the attack would stop when she was fired. She was. Public lynch mob: 1; Sacco: 0.”
Paterson wrote: “Social media and other online forums provide the perfect medium for public shaming, offering physical distance and relative anonymity – Cambridge Analytica debacle notwithstanding. However, with a large majority of the Western world having access to the internet and Facebook alone approaching 2 billion users, what factors can predict who will engage in public shaming?”
She pointed out that research suggests “individuals who perceive themselves to have higher socioeconomic status (researcher speak for ‘posh people’) are more likely to have a higher desire to exert social control via public shaming, than those who perceive themselves to have lower SES. The same piece of research also found that people who believe in the ‘just world hypothesis’, or that the world is a fair place in which everyone gets what they deserve, are also more likely to engage in public shaming.”