Hit sitcom 'Roseanne' axed over racist tweet row

by Frankie TAGGART
Sitcom star Roseanne Barr had apologized for what she called a 'bad joke' on Twitter that was widely decried as racist

US television network ABC on Tuesday canceled the hit working-class comedy "Roseanne," after its star Roseanne Barr aimed a racist tweet at a former advisor to Barack Obama.

The 65-year-old sitcom actress -- a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump who has used Twitter to voice far-right and conspiracy theorist views -- took aim at the aide, Valerie Jarrett, in a post that read: "Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby = vj."

After a barrage of criticism on social media, Barr apologized to Jarrett, who is part black, and to "all Americans" for what she called a "joke."

"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," she tweeted. "I apologize. I am now leaving Twitter."

Her belated mea culpa was not enough for ABC, which said it was pulling the plug on Barr's show over the "abhorrent, repugnant" tweet, which was "inconsistent with our values."

Likewise, Barr's talent agency ICM said its teams were "greatly distressed by the disgraceful and unacceptable tweet."

"Consequently, we have notified her that we will not represent her. Effective immediately, Roseanne Barr is no longer a client," the agency said in a statement.

Despite vowing to quit the social media platform, Barr embarked on a spree late Tuesday night, retweeting people who defended her against allegations of racism while saying of Jarrett: "I thought she was Saudi."

She also retweeted a photo purporting to quote Jarrett, who was born in Iran to American parents, that she was seeking "to help change America to be a more Islamic country." The quote was found to be false by fact-checking site Snopes.

- 'Teaching moment' -

"Roseanne" was rebooted in March after a gap of 21 years with Barr's character recast as a Trump supporter.

The show had been renewed for an 11th season after scoring huge ratings and generally positive reviews for its season-10 opener -- including from the president who appreciated the new pro-Trump perspective.

"There was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing," said Bob Iger, the head of ABC's parent company Disney, in a tweet posted moments after ABC pulled the plug.

Reacting to the network's decision, Jarrett herself said she hoped it would trigger a broader discussion on racism in America.

"I'm fine -- I'm worried about the people out there don't have a circle of friends and followers who come right to their defense," Jarrett said on MSNBC. "I think we have to turn this into a teaching moment," she said.

"Roseanne" offered a rare depiction of working-class life on US television, but it also spotlighted Trump supporters, who have been largely ignored by Hollywood.

Barr revealed that Trump had called personally to congratulate her on the show's success.

But as of Tuesday night, the president, who is a prolific tweeter, remained silent on the affair, while his spokeswoman batted away reporters' questions.

"The President is focused on North Korea," Sarah Sanders said on Air Force One.

"He's focused on trade deals. And he's focused on rebuilding our military, the economy. And that's what he's spending his time on; not responding to other things."

Born on November 3, 1952, in Salt Lake City, Utah, Barr started out as a stand-up comedian before starring in "Roseanne," which made her an overnight star.

Viewers warmed to her depiction of a wise-cracking, sarcastic working-class mother and she was rewarded with three nominations for Emmys -- television's equivalent of the Oscars -- winning in 1993.

She has also starred in several films, wrote three memoirs and won a second Emmy for "The Roseanne Show," a talk show which ran from 1998 to 2000.

But her various private life exploits have garnered just as much attention as her career achievements -- including three marriages, all ending in divorce, and an abortive attempt to get into politics.

- 'Swift and appropriate' -

Barr ran for president with the Green Party and the Peace and Freedom Party in 2012, and voted for Obama before becoming a vocal Trump supporter, saying she wanted him to "shake up" the status quo.

Her various controversies over the years have included a 2009 photo shoot for satirical Jewish magazine Heeb, in which she dressed up as Hitler baking gingerbread cookies. She is Jewish.

In March, Barr tweeted out a conspiracy theory falsely accusing David Hogg, a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida, of giving a Nazi salute at a march.

The backlash to her latest tweet was swift, with public figures from actors Rosie O'Donnell and Don Cheadle to CNN analyst April Ryan calling out Barr, while comedian Wanda Sykes, a consulting producer on "Roseanne," announced before the cancellation that she would not be returning to the show in any case.

"We welcome the swift and appropriate action taken by ABC and hope it sends a message that the promotion of hatred and bigotry will not be accepted by our nation's entertainment industry," said Nihad Awad of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Sitcom star Roseanne Barr had apologized for what she called a 'bad joke' on Twitter that was widely decried as racist