The Slatest

Today in Conservative Media: Down Goes Roseanne in Trump’s America. Good?

Roseanne Barr at the premiere of ABC's Roseanne on March 23, 2018 in Burbank, California.
Roseanne Barr at the premiere of ABC’s Roseanne on March 23, 2018 in Burbank, California.
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Today in Conservative Media is a daily roundup of the biggest stories in the right-wing press.

Roseanne Barr torpedoed the popular 2018 revival of her sitcom Rosanne Tuesday with an explicitly racist tweet about former senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett. In a tweet that was later deleted, Barr, the co-creator and star of the show, wrote of Jarrett, who is black: “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.” The fallout from ABC was swift. The network announced the show’s cancellation, pulled a repeat episode scheduled to air Tuesday night, and set about scrubbing the network’s website of the show’s presence. Barr later apologized; it didn’t matter.

The latest iteration of the sitcom featuring a middle American family was seen as a barometer of the tastes and perhaps even growing influence of Trump voters on American pop culture. The show drew large but diminishing audiences two decades after it went off the air, which set off a series of think pieces on what its popularity demonstrated about the state of America and Americans. Upon the show’s cancellation, media on the right weighed in largely with newsy posts about the Twitter remarks and subsequent sacking. Some longer, more substantive evaluation on the right pointed out that: A) Barr’s comments were abhorrent; and B) they were nothing new.

David French at National Review outlined how the actress and vocal Trump supporter’s venom sprayed every which way in his post “Roseanne and the High Cost of Embracing Craziness.” “If Roseanne Barr is a poster child for anything, she’s a poster child for cultural brokenness,” French writes. Barr is batty even by internet standards, French points out, as she’s a birther, a 9/11 truther, and every other form of -er. “First, ABC shouldn’t have brought her back. She was, quite obviously, one of the more toxic and troubled personalities in American public life,” French writes. “Second, Trump World shouldn’t have embraced her new show.”

Remember when President Trump called Roseanne to congratulate her on her ratings? I know that Republicans are starved for Republican-friendly television, but can we ever reach a time when the stakes are low enough to draw lines based on character? I know people voted for the low-character president because of the Flight 93 election and all that. I know folks turned out for Roy Moore because of judges. But where’s the sitcom emergency necessitating the love for Roseanne?

French then addressed the residual question that simmers on the right: What about the other side?

Third, hypocrisy and double standards abound. So, where are the lines for acceptable speech? Even now, Twitter is lighting up with examples of progressive celebrities saying terrible things and keeping their jobs. ESPN is expanding Keith Olbermann’s role at the network despite a Twitter feed full of hysterical, profane insults and unhinged commentary. Fire one celebrity and you can dredge up six more who’ve posted their own deranged rants. At the same time, does the Right really want to turn Roseanne into a poster child of political persecution? We all know that progressives get more grace than conservatives, but where does Roseanne fit? We’re left with a mess. To argue that companies should err on the side of free speech — as I do all the time — is not to argue that companies can’t have any standards at all.

“I’m not troubled by Roseanne’s termination,” French concludes. “Sometimes, a story fits no one’s political narrative cleanly. Sometimes, the story is the confusion and brokenness of our times.”

In the Weekly Standard Jonathan Last writes in his post “Trumpism Corrupts: Roseanne Edition” that Roseanne wasn’t a conservative, and conservatives should have known better than to be seduced into vouching for her just because her fictional character at times resembled them. “[T]he seduction of Roseanne is understandable,” Last writes. “It was a sitcom that got people to pay attention because it treated Red America Trump voters as normal (-ish) human beings. People on the right were desperate to see Republican types portrayed with any sort of sympathy by Hollywood. And so, they latched onto her, and her show, despite the fact that Roseanne Barr isn’t any sort of conservative. They should have known better, because Roseanne isn’t just ‘not any sort of conservative.’ She is, at best, a vulgarian and, at worst, a cretin.”

Last also links the intellectual and moral drift of Roseanne viewers to that of Trump voters:

You start out thinking, Hey, this is kind of sketchy. But then you see the overnight numbers and you forget all about crotch-grabbing and conspiracy theories. But that stuff never really goes away. So eventually, Roseanne is calling Valerie Jarrett a Muslim Dr. Zaius and then conservatives find themselves defending her brave free speech or whatever. (And by the by, the Valerie Jarrett comment was only the second-worst thing she said today.) In that way, Roseanne was a lot like Trumpism. You start out thinking, I know he’s said some weird stuff and has a shady past, but illegal immigration is a real problem! And the next thing you know, you’re defending a president who plays footsy with white supremacists and accuses a former president of—literal—treason.

Elsewhere, Sarah Rumpf* at RedState penned an eye roll post on “The Transparency of Hollywood’s Fauxtrage Over Roseanne.” “Predictably, Hollywood celebrities are stampeding over each other in an utterly ridiculous contest to see who can express the highest degree of moral outrage,” Rumpf writes. “Roseanne Barr is obnoxious and controversial and horrible — and yes, sometimes racist. That’s what she does and who she is. She is a comedienne who has traded on controversy and outrage. None of this is new.

What is new, Rumpf writes, is Trump. And that, she says, is why the show got cancelled.

“So what’s different now? Why did ABC jump to cancel a profitable show that was getting sky-high ratings? Why did her talent agents, ICM Partners, drop her as a client today? Both ABC and ICM Partners are willingly forgoing lucrative future income by severing ties with Barr,” Rumpf wonders. “It’s hard to logically explain this as based on anything more than Barr’s support for President Donald Trump, both personally and as incorporated in the plot of the reboot’s pilot episode. The foul-mouthed, abrasive Roseanne and her squabbling brood were hardly a conservative show by any means other than the title character’s 2016 vote for Trump.”

Amanda Prestigiacomo at the Daily Wire, on the other hand, blames liberal Hollywood for making the overwrought Trump connection to the show’s cancellation. “Hollywood quickly came out in support of the show’s cancellation, some tying the incident to racism surrounding President Donald Trump and chalking up the ABC backlash as a win for the #resistance,” she writes.

Independent Journal Review covered a panel discussion on Fox News debating whether Barr’s comment was, in fact, racist or just kinda mean.

IJR also covered the far right’s Twitter-wonderings comparing Barr’s comments and firing to MSNBC anchor Joy Reid’s old homophobic blog posts that she now says was the result of a hacker. Circa rounded out the day’s conservative media coverage offering up the potential ways the show could make another comeback online.

*Correction, May 31, 2018: This post originally misspelled RedState contributor Sarah Rumpf’s last name.