Roseanne Barr

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ABC Cancels 'Roseanne' Reboot After Roseanne Barr's Comments About Valerie Jarrett

May 29, 2018 - 1:58 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880/CBS News/AP) -- ABC announced Tuesday afternoon that it is canceling the reboot of “Roseanne,” after Roseanne Barr’s racist tweet about Valerie Jarrett, a former senior advisor to President Barack Obama.

ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey says the comment "is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel the show."

The "Roseanne" revival this spring was an unexpected major hit for ABC. It was particularly popular among many conservative viewers because Barr's character expressed support for President Donald Trump.

Barr compared Jarrett, who is black, to an ape in a tweet. After initially pushing back against criticism of the comment, Barr now admits her "joke" was in "bad taste" and says she is leaving Twitter. 

Barr's tweet about Jarrett said, "muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj." She later deleted it and said she was sorry.

"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."

Earlier, Barr had rebuffed accusations of racism by insisting that "Islam is not a race." But her eventual admission that the joke was about Jarrett's "looks" seemed to confirm that the ape comment was indeed about Jarrett's appearance. 

The offending tweet came late Monday night, amidst a series of tweets referring to George Soros as a Nazi and Chelsea Clinton as a Soros family member. Barr also apologized for those tweets and took it back, then attacked the family of Clinton's husband, Marc Mezvinsky, instead.

Barr is a vocal Trump supporter like her character on the "Roseanne" revival had been. President Trump himself called Barr to congratulate her after the first episode of the reboot scored record ratings

The comedian Wanda Sykes, a consulting producer on the show, tweeted before ABC announced the cancellation of the show that she would not be returning in the wake of Barr's comments.

Speaking to WCBS 880’s Steve Scott Tuesday afternoon, Syracuse University professor Robert Thompson said ABC’s decision was not a surprise in any way.

“I think ABC took one look at that tweet and figured that there was only one way that story was going to ultimately play out, and they may as well get in front of it and cancel it and be done with it,” said Thompson, one of the nation’s leading experts on pop culture, “and for the most part, they’re getting praised for their early decision.”

Thompson said protection of the many things that are owned under the Disney/ABC brand may have played into the decision, but he said any network would consider Barr’s tweet beyond the pale.

“Now of course, ABC knew what they were getting into with Roseanne, but I think they were kind of willing to take a chance. It paid off with them with a huge hit, but at some point the whole, you know, ‘Roseanne’s going to be Roseanne’ argument just doesn’t play anymore, and in the end, they had to take control – in the only way I think you can take control of Roseanne – and that was they’d quit doing business with her,” Thompson said.

Thompson said the high ratings the “Roseanne” reboot enjoyed were not enough to keep the show going.

“While that show did open with extraordinary ratings – over 20 million, I think – it had fallen off quite a bit by the end of the tenth episode, which was its final episode,” Thompson said. “That isn’t to say that it wasn’t still a hit. I’m sure they would love to have another season like that, and a season after that, and a season after that. But I think in this case, Roseanne did not give them that option.”

Thompson added that he does not think it was likely that another network or non-broadcast entity would pick up “Roseanne.”

“It’s going to be rough for someone else to pick this up. I mean, obviously these days, there’s so many other places for shows to play, and we do see programs bouncing from network to the internet and all that kind of thing,” he said. “Anybody who picks this up, though, is going to be sending the public relations message that ABC was not OK with that tweet, but we – whoever we are that picks it up – are OK enough with it to put this show on, and I think that’s going to be a – I don’t think anybody is going to want to send that message.”

(© 2018 WCBS 880. CBS News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)