The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

‘Roseanne’ acknowledges an issue many Trump supporters deny: Islamophobia

Roseanne Barr, left, and John Goodman appear in a scene from the reboot of "Roseanne."  (Adam Rose/ABC via AP)

Actor Roseanne Barr said she wanted to bring her show back to help Americans better understand white working-class Trump supporters. But her show may just be reinforcing the worst stereotypes people have about that demographic.

“I’ve always attempted to portray a realistic portrait of the American people and working-class people," Barr said before her successful sitcom returned to prime time. "And in fact, it was working-class people who elected Trump, so I felt that, yeah, that was very real, and something that needed to be discussed."

Actually, Trump did not win all of the working-class vote, according to exit polls. He won the white working-class vote. Most working-class people of color voted against the president.

And despite frequent protests from many white working-class Trump supporters that racism and discrimination weren't reasons they supported Trump, several studies say otherwise.

The latest Roseanne episode features a plotline in which the star and the Conner family end up stereotyping their Muslim neighbors.

The Washington Post's Helena Andrews-Dyer recapped more of the episode:

"The episode began with the Conner family matriarch snooping on her front porch with a rake that could’ve easily been a pitch fork or even a tiki torch. She’s convinced that her new neighbors from 'Talibanjistan' are, in fact, a 'sleeper cell getting ready to blow up our neighborhood.' Exhibit A? The surplus of fertilizer stacked up against their garage."

Roseanne's character told her Muslim neighbors: “We don’t hate you; we’re scared of you.”

It's not terribly surprising that many Trump supporters would be scared of Muslims, especially after the campaign. And the president's critics say he sometimes stokes those fears.

At a New Hampshire rally a few months after launching his campaign in 2015, a man asked Trump: “We have a problem in this country; it’s called Muslims ... When can we get rid of them?”

Trump’s answer: “You know, a lot of people are saying that, and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening out there. We’re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.”

Following an Islamic State terrorist attack in Paris that November, Trump told MSNBC that he would “strongly consider” closing certain U.S. mosques.

As a candidate, he also repeatedly claimed to have seen Muslims in Jersey City celebrating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — even after it was debunked.

This type of campaign rhetoric had an impact on voters that resemble the Conner family.

According to the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group, a research collaboration of nearly two dozen analysts and scholars from across the political spectrum, white voters who went from voting for President Barack Obama in 2012 to backing Trump in 2016 were motivated in part by their views on Muslims as well as immigration and blacks.

In "How the Debate over American Identity Shaped the Election and What It Means for a Trump presidency," John Sides wrote:

There are large partisan cleavages in how Americans feel about both immigrants and Muslims, with Republicans and especially Trump primary supporters expressing less favorable views of these groups, on average. On the more fundamental question of what American identity means, there is both consensus and disagreement.

Nearly two-thirds of Trump’s primary supporters believe being Christian is important to being American. This latter finding implies a continuing divide over whether members of minority religious faiths, and especially Muslims, can be fully American.

Other polls showed that Trump supporters were more likely to have negative views of Muslims than people who did not vote for the president, which may have led to their higher support for Trump's Muslim ban and other policies that curtail the number of Muslims in America.

In one of the last scenes of the episode, Roseanne defended one of her Muslim neighbors when a grocery store cashier basically tells her to go back to her country after she is short $30.

It is notable for Barr to acknowledge that Islamophobia among white working-class Trump supporters is a thing, especially considering how often the president's surrogates deny that cultural anxiety influenced their vote, despite the amount of data saying otherwise.

While the ending did a fine job of tying up an episode of the sitcom, it is understandable that viewers, particularly Muslims, might find it hard to believe that a supporter of Trump would publicly come to their defense in real life. A Pew Research Center survey published last year stated that about three-quarters of Muslim Americans (74 percent) say Trump is unfriendly toward them. It's likely they feel the same way about his supporters, especially since there isn't much evidence that they came to this community's defense when the discrimination was coming from the man they elected.