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ABC cancels ‘Roseanne’ after its star, Roseanne Barr, went on a vitriolic and racist Twitter rant

Roseanne Barr has a history of making racist remarks and of fanning the flames of conspiracy theories. ABC canceled her show for it on May 29. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

This post has been updated.

ABC announced Tuesday that it canceled “Roseanne” after the show’s star, Roseanne Barr, went on a vitriolic and racist Twitter rant.

Barr appeared to take aim late Monday at Valerie Jarrett, a former adviser to President Barack Obama, in a tweet that identified the administration official by her initials: “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.” Though she later claimed it was “a joke,” she issued a fuller apology Tuesday after more intense criticism was directed toward her and ABC. “I apologize to Valerie Jarrett and to all Americans,” she wrote. “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.”

But Channing Dungey, the president of ABC Entertainment, did not consider the tweet a joking matter.

“Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show,” she said in a statement released just hours after the comedian’s offensive social media rant.

Barr was also dropped by her talent agency, ICM Partners, who announced in a statement that her “disgraceful and unacceptable tweet” was “antithetical to our core values, both as individuals and as an agency. Consequently, we have notified her that we will not represent her.”

Jarrett addressed the comments in an “Everyday Racism” town hall that will air later tonight on MSNBC, saying that Disney chairman Bob Iger had called her before the announcement. “This should be a teaching moment,” Jarrett said, according to an MSNBC preview of the session. “I’m fine. I’m worried about all the people out there who don’t have a circle of friends and followers who come right to their defense — the person who’s walking down the street minding their own business and they see somebody cling to their purse or walk across the street. Or every black parent I know who has a boy who has to sit down and have a conversation, ‘the talk’ as we call it… those ordinary examples of racism that happen every single day.”

The news capped a day of online furor over a tweetstorm that also included false conspiracy theories, as well as attacks on former first daughter Chelsea Clinton.

The social-media rant wasn’t exactly a surprise performance by Barr, who regularly delights supporters of President Trump with her retweets of conservative memes and stories. She has trucked in conservative conspiracies before, though she deleted most of her old tweets once it was announced that her show “Roseanne” was coming back on the air after a 21-year hiatus.

But even by her own standards, this latest round of tweets were particularly vitriolic. She started by spreading the false rumor that Chelsea Clinton is married to the nephew of billionaire liberal Democratic donor George Soros, who is a lightning rod for false conservative theories.

Clinton responded in her usual M.O. when dealing with social-media weirdness: a clapback cloaked in sweetness. “Good morning Roseanne – my given middle name is Victoria,” she wrote. “I imagine George Soros’s nephews are lovely people. I’m just not married to one. I am grateful for the important work @OpenSociety [Soros’s organization] does in the world. Have a great day!”

Barr later corrected herself, but added another insult. “CORRECTION: CHELSEA CLINTON IS NOT MARRIED TO A SOROS NEPHEW. HER HUSBAND IS THE SON OF A CORRUPT SENATOR, SO SORRY!” the comedian tweeted. (Fact check: Clinton’s father-in-law was convicted of financial fraud, but he was a member of the House, not the Senate.)

Clinton wasn’t Barr’s only target, though — she had more to say about Soros, whom she accused of wanting to “overthrow … [U.S.] constitutional republic.”

Barr also falsely claimed that Soros was “a nazi who turned in his fellow Jews 2 be murdered in German concentration camps.”

And she called on Americans to “unite against” a CIA mind-control program, for good measure.

Barr has tweeted in the past about “Pedogate,” the term for conspiracy theories that accuse people (usually Trump opponents) of being part of a secret ring of pedophiles, and Pizzagate (the most famous of those theories). She also tweeted last year about Seth Rich, the Democratic National Committee staffer who was shot in Washington, echoing a conservative theory that his death was covered up by the Clintons. “THE FIX IS IN!” Barr tweeted at the time.

“Roseanne,” in which Barr plays the Trump-loving matriarch of a blue-collar family, had been renewed for a second season on ABC, after a debut season in which it was the top show in Nielsen ratings, and averaged 19 million viewers an episode. Though the ratings were through the roof, the show’s producers seemed to hope they could steer clear of controversy by dialing down the show’s focus on politics. Dungey had said that the upcoming season, slated for fall 2018, would move “away from politics and [be] more focused on family.”

And Barr’s controversy-stoking social-media habits had been flagged as potentially problematic for the show. In an interview with Advertising Week, Sara Gilbert, the actress who plays Roseanne’s daughter, Darlene, and is an executive producer of the show, said Barr’s friends and family had kept her away from Twitter as the show prepared to launch. “Her kids, and her TV kids, try to keep her off of social media,” Gilbert said.

ABC was slated to air a rerun of “Roseanne” on Tuesday night, but CNN’s Brian Stelter reported that the network is planning to show an episode of “The Middle” instead. Hulu, Paramount Network, TV Land and CMT also announced that they are dropping the show from their respective schedules.

Barr herself did not immediately publicly respond to the cancellation, but a number of public figures — both involved and not involved in the show — did.