Roseanne Barr, arguably the face of “pro-Trump” Hollywood, has seen a recent career boost built on giving a voice to the millions of Americans who support the president. But a Tuesday morning Twitter rant that led to network executives canceling her show did that group more harm than good.
Barr invoked racist and Islamophobic stereotypes that triggered so much outrage that ABC canceled her successful sitcom. The most offensive tweet has been deleted, one combining a common anti-black racist trope with a conspiracy theory referring to former Obama White House senior aide Valerie Jarrett.
She also retweeted pieces accusing Jarrett’s mother of being a communist, among dozens of other retweets Tuesday. Other topics included falsely claiming that Chelsea Clinton was related by marriage to billionaire liberal activist George Soros, prompting a brief back-and-forth with Clinton, capped by Barr’s sharing of a false but widespread conspiracy theory about Soros.
Roseanne Conner, the lead character in the ABC sitcom that became a megahit in its first revival season this year, is a different person from Roseanne Barr. The actress and her fictional persona live in different parts of the country, have different family structures and different net worths.
But their politics have some similarities, making it easy for viewers to conflate the two. And Barr often points to her working-class roots growing up in a red state as being pivotal in her most famous character’s development and in her own political worldview.
Liberals often think Trump supporters such as Barr — and her TV character — are racist because they support racist ideas like those Barr tweeted. Trump supporters are also often viewed as racist because many of them have gone on the record acknowledging the role cultural anxiety plays in their politics.
Barr’s television character is one of them.
On the show this past season, Barr portrayed Conner as discriminatory against Muslims. A particular episode showed her character snooping on her front porch with a rake because she is convinced that her new neighbors from “Talibanjistan” are a “sleeper cell getting ready to blow up our neighborhood.”
Barr's character told her Muslim neighbors: “We don’t hate you; we’re scared of you.”
Perhaps this is what Barr meant when she sought to give those worldviews an elevated platform.
“I’ve always attempted to portray a realistic portrait of the American people and working-class people,” Barr told reporters in January 2018, before her successful relaunch into 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.”
Leaving aside the myth that working-class people elected Trump — which I previously dispelled — Barr’s portrayal of the American people who elected Trump appears to be playing into the divisiveness that has led most Americans to consider Trump racist.
Barr later apologized to Jarrett in a tweet.
That came after #boycottABC began trending on Twitter.
ABC reaped the benefits of having one of the only shows on network television to try to shed light on a Trump-supporting household — it was the highest-rated broadcast show of the entire season, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
In giving voice to Roseanne Conner, the network planted a flag in territory that few in Hollywood have been willing to occupy. The new statements by Roseanne forced them to reckon with having given a voice to Roseanne Barr and the beliefs she displayed Tuesday.
And it appears that ABC decided that in the end, keeping the show wasn’t worth it.