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 barbs funny.
So what went wrong? What compelled her to take on former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett in an openly racist tweet? Why did she feel entitled 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. But we do know 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 was just as surely the right move.
ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey, the first black person 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,” she 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. But 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 expressed outrage.
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 hope President Trump was watching this episode of “Doing the Right Thing in America.”
We also hope he noted that Roseanne – whom he called to congratulate when the show featuring her adoration of him debuted with stratospheric ratings – said she was through with Twitter.
Trump won’t take his cue from Barr. But the rest of us should. Doing the right thing sometimes means ignoring those who spread such acrimony, venom and dishonesty wherever and however they spread it.