Robert Iger, the chairman and chief executive officer of Walt Disney Company — the entertainment mega-conglomerate that owns the ABC television network — has publicly backed a decision made by the network’s entertainment president to cancel the successful Roseanne sitcom after the show’s star, Roseanne Barr, posted a racist message to her Twitter account comparing former Obama administration official Valerie Jarrett, who is African-American, to an ape.
Iger’s public backing is significant because the decision to cancel Roseanne, a show described by one industry expert as “immensely profitable,” was made by Channing Dungey, 49, who in 2016 became the first African-American woman to head the entertainment operation at a major TV network.
“I’m not too certain an immensely profitable show like Roseanne would have been cancelled today if a woman like Channing didn’t have a seat at the table,” entertainment reporter Chris Witherspoon wrote on his Twitter account.
Iger called Dungey’s decision “the right thing.”
“There was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing,” Iger wrote on his Twitter account.
In her statement earlier on Tuesday, Dungey called Barr’s tweet about Jarrett “abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values.” She then stated that ABC had decided to cancel the Roseanne show.
Jarret, appearing on the cable news network MSNBC on Tuesday night, said that Iger had actually called her before Dungey’s announcement of Roseanne‘s cancellation, to inform her of the decision.
“Bob Iger, who’s a CEO of Disney called me before the announcement,” Jarrett said. “He apologized. He said that he had zero tolerance for that sort of racist, bigoted comment, and he wanted me to know before he made it public that he was canceling the show,” Jarrett said in her MSNBC appearance.
According to a CNN report on the cancellation of Roseanne, the Jarrett tweet was only the latest in a series of Barr tweets that caused concern among ABC executives.
“ABC executives thought — and hoped — that Barr would tone down her tweeting and focus on her sitcom,” CNN reported. “But that didn’t happen. Barr held onto her beloved Twitter presence and the community she has cultivated there.So when Tuesday’s tweets stirred outrage, the question within ABC quickly became, ‘Is there a path forward?'”
Barr, a self-proclaimed Donald Trump supporter, has a lengthy history of tweeting right-wing conspiracy theories and other bizarre and offensive, even racist and anti-Semitic views. In fact, also on Tuesday on her Twitter feed, she claimed that Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of President Bill Clinton and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, was a member of the Soros family, headed by liberal philanthropist George Soros. That assertion is false, as Clinton herself quickly pointed out.
But ABC green-lighted Barr’s sitcom — a reboot of her hit late-1980s sitcom also titled Roseanne — despite her history of offensive tweets. In fact, Tuesday’s tweet about Jarrett in which Barr described the former Obama adviser as looking as if “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby,” was not the first time she had compared an African-American woman to an ape.
In 2013, Barr posted a tweet in which she attacked Obama administration National Security Adviser Susan Rice as “a man with big swinging ape balls.”
In 2016, she posted a tweet in which she attacked top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, who is Muslim, as a “Jew hater” and “filthy Nazi whore.”
Though Barr earlier Tuesday said that she would leave Twitter, she continued to post messages on her Twitter account throughout the day, including a tweet in which she promised to “defend” herself, saying, “I’m tired of being attacked & belittled more than other comedians who have said worse.”