As the entire planet is well aware, actress/comedienne Roseanne Barr ignited a firestorm after sending out a racist tweet about Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett.
In response, the ABC television network — a Disney subsidiary — quickly fired Roseanne, canceled the top-rated reboot of her iconic sitcom, and other channels are even scrubbing re-runs from their platforms. Barr’s colleagues in the entertainment industry have uniformly condemned her. Related developments seem to be unfolding by the minute, and Roseanne’s prior off-the-wall tweets are coming under scrutiny.
Roseanne has apologized and acknowledged that she let down the cast and crew. She has also been tweeting and then deleting some of her thoughts, including blaming the whole mess on Ambien.
Against this general backdrop, Fox Sports Radio host and blogger Clay Travis, who describes himself as a radical moderate and a First Amendment absolutist, argues that TV networks should implement a content-neutral policy in which every employee is treated similarly or, in the alternative, ban any form of politics-related punditry by their employees on social media.
It’s not clear if Roseanne’s offensive tweet was political rather than personal, however, so Travis’ thesis may or may not apply or may be more appropriate in the isolated context of ESPN, although some blue-check Twitter pundits and their followers are trying to link President Trump to the Roseanne controversy.
A frequent ESPN critic, Travis described the Roseanne tweet or tweets as “unhinged” on his Outkick the Show Periscope broadcast, but also observed that Disney-owned ESPN is bringing back Keith Olbermann on SportsCenter.
In a series of past tweets, the ex-MSNBC host has via social media repeatedly directed F-bombs at the president and called him a Nazi, a traitor, racist, mentally ill, and a white supremacist, Travis claimed.
Travis also noted that former 6 p.m. Sports Center anchor Jemele Hill deemed the president a white supremacist on Twitter and is still on the ESPN payroll, although she is now working for the ESPN-affiliated, long-form journalism Undefeated site, a transfer that occurred when SC6 continued to languish in the ratings during the time that she and Michael Smith were co-hosting.
In addition, Travis recalled that ESPN fired ex-MLB star Curt Schilling for posting an anti-transgender meme on Facebook in connection with the North Carolina bathroom law.
Travis summarized his Periscope monologue as follows.
“If you are a left-winger, you can say whatever you want, and you have no punishment for anything that you say. The moment that you are conservative, and you say anything, you get fired…the more left-wing your positions, the more likely you are to be protected by Disney and [CEO] Bob Iger.”
Travis went on to compare the perpetually outraged social media cohort, with its thirst for likes and follows, to a niche-audience video game that “rewards extremism and punishes moderation.”
So @KeithOlbermann can call @realDonaldTrump a Nazi, psychopathic white supremacist, which are indisputably dumb things to Tweet, & get hired by @espn and @therealroseanne gets fired for her indisputably dumb Tweets. Almost like there’s a double standard at play here.— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) May 29, 2018
Specifically with regard to ESPN management, Travis added that “either everybody has the complete right to say whatever political opinion they want, and ‘we’re not going to police it when they make political opinions outside of work hours’…or you could easily say ‘we’re never going to talk about politics; this a sports company.'”
On his Outkick the Coverage blog, Clay Travis speculated that “The truth of the matter is this — hiring Keith Olbermann to talk about sports on your network is indefensible. Unless, that is, ESPN would ever think about hiring Rush Limbaugh, again, or Sean Hannity to do a show on the network.”
Roseanne was a far-left socialist for most of her life and even ran for president on the Green Party ticket. She only relatively recently apparently became a Trump supporter on and off screen.
Clay Travis also predicted that someone with deep pockets will come forward to create a direct-to-consumer content company that will impose no restrictions on what its employees say in either their professional or personal capacity. The focus will on the best possible content, he maintained.
Sigh. A company has a clear right to address employee speech, even outside of work hours, as they see fit. But I think a company also has an obligation to all employees to apply clear & consistent precedent so that all hateful & hurtful speech by employees is treated the same. https://t.co/cr8Lskv3ku— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) May 29, 2018
In the midst of this ongoing controversy, others have questioned the ABC employment status of Jimmy Kimmel for participating in misogynistic skits earlier in his career and also reportedly appearing in blackface, and The View co-host Joy Behar for mocking Christians. Outside of those in the Disney media orbit, some have called for the firing of HBO Real Time host Bill Maher for dropping an N-bomb and quipping that Trump’s mother had sex with an orangutan. Daily Show host Trevor Noah reportedly has a history of tweets that some say were anti-Semitic, and MSNBC anchor Joy Reid is accused of authoring a series of homophobic blog posts that she claimed was the result of retroactive hacking. All of these individuals are outspoken Trump foes.
And ESPN has regularly featured rap artists despite their often misogynistic, profanity-filled lyrics.
According to Gateway Pundit, comedienne Wanda Sykes, who worked on Roseanne before quitting, is associated with racially-charged messaging.
President Trump has also weighed in today on his Twitter feed about what he implied was a potential double standard.
Bob Iger of ABC called Valerie Jarrett to let her know that “ABC does not tolerate comments like those” made by Roseanne Barr. Gee, he never called President Donald J. Trump to apologize for the HORRIBLE statements made and said about me on ABC. Maybe I just didn’t get the call?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 30, 2018
Although there is other news happening in America apart from Roseanne Barr, it should also be noted that free speech protections under the First Amendment don’t apply in the private-sector workplace.
ABC previously came under criticism for canceling Last Man Standing, its second highest-rated sitcom. The network denied that politics had anything to do with the decision to end the show that generally put liberal and conservative views on a level playing field. The Tim Allen vehicle has now been revived on the Fox broadcast network.
Watch the Clay Travis 20-minute-plus Periscope broadcast (Warning: very NSFW for language) about the Roseanne controversy and draw your own conclusions.
On Keith Olbermann & Roseanne, Jemele Hill & Curt Schilling and Disney’s broken policy on employee speech https://t.co/QvAO4RKoix— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) May 29, 2018
Added: When asked about the president’s tweet about Bob Iger, Sarah Huckabee Sanders told the White House press corps that Trump is in no way defending Roseanne Barr, but he was calling out media bias. She added the following, Outkick the Coverage reported.
“Where was Bob Iger’s apology to the White House staff for Jemele Hill calling the president and anyone associated with him a white supremacist? To Christians around the world for Joy Behar calling Christianity a mental illness? Where was the apology for Kathy Griffin going on a profane rant against the president on The View after a photo showed her holding President Trump’s decapitated head? And where was the apology from Bob Iger for ESPN hiring Keith Olbermann after his numerous expletive laced tweets attacking the president, calling him a Nazi, and even expanding Olbermann’s role after that attack against the president’s family. This is a double standard he is speaking about. No one is defending her comments. They’re inappropriate, but that was the point he was making.”