Roseanne Barr posts a racist tweet, and then gets her show canceled
On March 30, 2018, the ABC sitcom Roseanne was renewed for an eleventh season of 13 episodes, following the success of the revival's premiere night.
On May 29, 2018, star Roseanne Barr posted a message on Twitter reading "muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby." The tweet referred to Valerie Jarrett, an Iranian-born African-American who served as Senior Advisor to former U.S. President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017.
The "ape" tweet was widely criticized as racist, as during the 19th and early 20th century, comparing African Americans to apes was widely used among American white supremacists to justify slavery and racial segregation. Series executive producer/showrunner Bruce Helford said he was "personally horrified and saddened" by Barr's remarks, and the show's co-star Sara Gilbert called them "abhorrent" and "[not reflective of] the beliefs of our cast and crew or anyone associated with our show".
Barr's behavior on Twitter had been considered a concern among ABC executives during the lead-up to the revival's premiere, as she had a history of posting about debunked conspiracy theories – mainly those heavily circulated among the hard-right and far-right – such as QAnon and Pizzagate, along with other controversial topics on her account, with a particular focus on content that would appeal to supporters of Donald Trump. The Jarrett posting was the culmination of several controversial tweets she also made that morning, mainly involving false conspiracy theories about George Soros.
Claiming that Chelsea Clinton was married to one of his nephews, Soros was wanting to "[overthrow the] U.S. constitutional republic" by backing district attorney candidates that would "ignore US law & favor 'feelings' instead-and call everyone who is alarmed by that 'racist'", and falsely accusing Soros of being a Nazi during his youth. In commending ABC's decision to cancel the revival, Barr's ex-husband and original series recurring cast member Tom Arnold claimed that he had notified ABC of Barr's frequent tweets concerning false claims similar to those she had made during the morning of May 29 that led to the network's reversing its decision to renew the show.
In the wake of the posting, consulting producer/writer Wanda Sykes announced that she would no longer be involved with the program. Barr defended the tweet as being a "joke", and stated in a subsequent post, "ISLAM is not a RACE, lefties. Islam includes EVERY RACE of people". Barr later deleted the "ape" tweet and posted an apology, stating that she was "truly sorry for making a bad joke about [Jarrett's] politics and her looks." ABC ultimately announced later in the day that it had reversed the renewal decision and canceled Roseanne; network president Channing Dungey stated that Barr's remarks were "abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values."
ABC pulled a rerun that was scheduled to air that night, replacing it with an episode of The Middle (which had ended its nine-season run the week prior, and which ABC had already scheduled a rerun to air immediately following Roseanne that evening), and suspended its campaign for the series to be considered for nomination at the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards. Hulu also announced it would remove all episodes of the original and revival series from its library; Viacom-owned cable channels Paramount Network, TV Land and CMT dropped the series from their lineups effective the following day, while digital multicast network Laff pulled reruns from its schedule effective immediately.
In a tweet she later deleted, co-star Emma Kenney revealed that she was contacting her agent asking to quit the revival when she heard about the show's cancellation, remarking that she felt "empowered by [Sykes, Dungey and ABC for] standing up against abuse of power and lack of values. Bullies do not win. Ever."
ABC had heavily emphasized the success of Roseanne during its upfront presentations for the 2018–19 television season, leading to questions over possible repercussions for the network due to the loss of potential advertising revenue, and its plans for what would have been Roseanne's time slot on the fall schedule. In the end, a new spinoff called The Conners was created, which had Roseanne Conner (who Barr had played) killed off from an accidental opiate overdose and focused on her now-titular family. That show was a ratings success, and was renewed for a second season that aired in 2019.
Shortly before the cancellation was announced by ABC, Barr – who attributed the tweet about Jarrett and others made earlier that day to side effects from the sleep aid Ambien, a claim derided by many critics – apologized for the remarks, saying, "I apologize to Valerie Jarrett and to all Americans. I am truly sorry for making a bad joke about her politics and her looks. I should have known better. Forgive me – my joke was in bad taste." Hours after the cancellation announcement, BuzzFeed later released a longer apology to Jarrett, the network and her show's cast and crew: "I deeply regret my comments from late last night on Twitter. Above all, I want to apologize to Valerie Jarrett, as well as to ABC and the cast and crew of the Roseanne show. I am sorry for making a thoughtless joke that does not reflect my values — I love all people and am very sorry. Today my words caused hundreds of hardworking people to lose their jobs. I also sincerely apologize to the audience that has embraced my work for decades. I apologize from the bottom of my heart and hope that you can find it in your hearts to forgive me." However, she would later retweet posts defending her, as well as another concerning the conspiracy theory of Soros being a Nazi collaborator.