Roseanne Barr never really tried to hide her biases or her anger. She was divisive, sarcastic, cynical, rude and vulgar. She once grabbed her crotch and spat on the field after singing (so horrendously she was booed) the national anthem.
Famously, Barr refused to call her show’s writers by name, referring to them by numbers she hung around their necks.
Whatever demons inhabit Barr’s psyche, there can be no doubt they also fueled her humor. And there can be no doubt that much of America finds her acerbic, ugly words funny.
So it wasn’t unpredictable that she would cross the line. She’s done it before. Tuesday, Barr let fly an openly racist tweet aimed at former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett. Why did she feel entitled or compelled to say Jarrett, who is black and was born in Iran, is a child of “The Planet of the Apes” movies and the Muslim Brotherhood. We don’t know. She blames a sleep drug; we blame her demons.
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Whatever the reason, it was too much for ABC. The Disney-owned network canceled her show – the first top-rated show the network has owned in a generation. The cancellation will surely cost the network dearly, but it was just as surely the right move.
ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey, the first black woman to head programming at a major broadcast network, called Barr’s tweets “abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values.”
“There was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing,” said Disney CEO Bob Iger.
Less than an hour after ABC’s action, Barr’s talent agency, ICM Partners, dropped her, too.
She got the message: “I apologize to Valerie Jarrett and to all Americans,” Barr tweeted. “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. I am now leaving Twitter.”
Did Barr regret having said such stupid, mean things, or did she just regret having pushed the send button?
There is no doubt many people across America will believe Barr got a raw deal. They will insist she was joking. That such humor is her trademark. That we should let the chips fall from our shoulders. Those folks should review their own values. The people closest to Barr knew the truth. They did not stand by her or defend her or ignore her. Several quit the show immediately. Others made their outrage public.
It’s interesting that the same day Barr self-immolated, Starbucks was closed to give most of its 180,000 employees a crash course in racial sensitivity. The coffee chain’s chairman, Howard Schultz, closed 8,000 stores after a Philadelphia barista called police to arrest two black men for not buying anything while quietly sitting at a table.
The actions by ABC and Starbucks are striking, both for their swiftness and for their rejection of bigotry. Instead of trying to patch it up, walk away from it or ignore it, both corporate entities did what was right.
We had hoped that President Trump was watching this episode of “Doing the Right Thing in America.” But all he did was try to change the channel. Instead of repudiating his second-favorite TV star, he made the conversation about him. He tweeted out that he’s never gotten an apology for all the nasty things said about him.
Doing the right thing sometimes requires doing more than ignoring those who spread acrimony, venom and dishonesty. But sometimes, it requires taking action, actions like those taken by Starbucks and ABC. For us, it might mean simply no longer following a corrosive celebrity, or a president, on Twitter. Or anywhere else.