The tweet that led to “Roseanne’s” cancellation was one of many conspiracy-fueled posts from Roseanne Barr overnight. But it was definitely the most offensive, claiming that if the “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby,” it would be former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, who is black. (Describing black people as apes or monkeys is a well-known racist trope.)
“Roseanne’s Twitter statement was abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values,” Channing Dungey, president of ABC Entertainment, said in a statement announcing that the network was ending the highly rated reboot of Barr’s 1990s series. The reaction made sense to many who were furious about Barr’s tweets. But another question lingered: Why this tweet?
“Roseanne” had a cultural moment mainly because the main character was a Trump supporter. The president congratulated Barr for the premiere’s excellent ratings, and the show’s success became a rallying point for those who said Hollywood has been neglecting conservative audiences. But Barr, the person, isn’t just a Trump supporter. She often interacts with Twitter users who traffic in conservative conspiracy theories and Islamophobic memes, and has repeatedly promoted some of them herself.
For instance, just before tweeting her apology for her tweet about Jarrett and announcing that she was once again taking a break from Twitter, Barr retweeted a recommendation for a website dedicated to the QAnon conspiracy theory. QAnon is an umbrella for several more-specific conspiracy theories that claim Democrats and other liberal-leaning groups with access to power are secretly controlling the world — and a network of pedophile rings. The theory is popular in parts of the pro-Trump Internet because one of its key components is the idea that Trump is about to crack the case wide open. QAnon is something that Barr has alluded to and promoted before, right after her revival premiered.
The comedian has a habit of deleting all her tweets when she temporarily quits the website, which means deep dives into her Twitter past rely on previous reporting and on what on the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine has captured.
As news of “Roseanne’s” cancellation spread, many on Twitter pointed to a Barr tweet from 2013, in which she said that former Obama national security adviser Susan E. Rice was a “man with big swinging ape balls.” Like Jarrett, Rice is also black.
In 2016, Barr went on a Twitter rant about Hillary Clinton. One tweet called former Clinton aide Huma Abedin a “jew hater” and a “filty Nazi w—-,” according to the Jerusalem Post. Barr responded to outrage about the tweet by making a joke about political correctness.
In January, when her show’s revival was announced, a search of Barr’s archives pulled up tweets promoting the conspiracy theory that Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer who was shot in Washington, was actually killed by the Clintons. Rich’s parents have sued Fox News for helping to spread this claim in a now-retracted report.
There are similar tweets promoting “Pizzagate,” the anti-Clinton conspiracy theory that prompted a man to drive to Washington and open fire in a local pizza place because he falsely believed that the restaurant was the epicenter of a secret pedophile ring.
Barr has also amplified anti-Muslim memes. In 2015, for instance, she retweeted one about Jarrett, claiming she was a secret Muslim operative, and that the Obama administration was filled with members of the Muslim Brotherhood, an international Islamist movement. To the far right, the Muslim Brotherhood is a key component of a conspiracy theory claiming Muslims are staging an Islamic takeover of the U.S. government.
In March, around the time of the show’s premiere, Barr promised to tone down the politics on Twitter. But that was not a promise she was able to keep for long.