LOS ANGELES: Walt Disney Co’s ABC network on Tuesday swiftly cancelled popular US television comedy Roseanne after star Roseanne Barr incited outrage by comparing a black former Obama administration official to an ape in remarks on Twitter.
The show, a revival of the 1990s hit Roseanne, was ABC’s most widely watched prime time show for the TV season that ended last week. President Donald Trump has cited its huge viewership as evidence his supporters, who include Barr, want shows that speak to their concerns.
“Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show,” ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey said in a statement.
In a deleted comment on Twitter, Barr compared Valerie Jarrett, a former adviser to President Barack Obama, to an ape. Barr wrote that if the Islamist political movement “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby = vj.”
The actress, 65, apologised “for making a bad joke” about Jarrett, who is black and was born in Iran to American parents. Barr’s tweet followed a Twitter conversation referring to a Wikileaks allegation that the CIA spied on French presidential candidates during the Obama administration.
“Don’t feel sorry for me, guys!!,” Barr said in a Tweet late on Tuesday. “I just want to apologise to the hundreds of people, and wonderful writers (all liberal) and talented actors who lost their jobs on my show due to my stupid tweet.”
Iger called her before ABC announced the show’s cancellation.
“I think we have to turn it into a teaching moment,” Jarrett said at a taping of an MSNBC town hall event called Everyday Racism in America that the network released ahead of its scheduled broadcast. “I’m fine. I’m worried about all the people out there who don’t have a circle of friends and followers coming to their defense.”
Hollywood talent agency ICM also in a statement Tuesday announced that it will no longer represent Barr.
TV channels and streaming websites including Hulu also pulled reruns of the show.
The original Roseanne ran from 1988 to 1997, featuring a blue-collar family, the Conners, with overweight parents struggling to get by. It was praised for its realistic portrayal of working-class life.
The current Roseanne was ABC’s biggest hit of the 2017-2018 season, drawing an average of 18.7 million viewers, second only to CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory, according to Nielsen data through May 20.
ABC aired nine episodes of Roseanne from March until May and generated $22.8 million in ad revenue, or 2.5 percent of the network’s total for the season, according to iSpot data. In late March, the network renewed the show for another season.
Anger among the show’s supporting cast added to pressure on ABC. Sara Gilbert, who plays daughter Darlene, on Twitter called Barr’s comments “abhorrent.”
Emma Kenney, who plays Gilbert’s on-screen daughter Harris, said she had decided to leave the series because of Barr’s words even before ABC canceled the show. “As I called my manager to quit working on Roseanne, I found out the show got cancelled,” Kenney wrote on Twitter.
Emmy-winning comedian and Roseanne consulting producer Wanda Sykes was the first prominent figure associated with the show to cut ranks, quitting hours after Barr’s comments.
Tuesday’s furor echoed a 2013 incident in which Barr, in a subsequently deleted tweet, said black former Obama administration official Susan Rice “is a man with big swinging ape balls.”