Every controversial step that led toward ABC’s ‘Roseanne’ cancellation — from Pizzagate to Parkland to the final racist last straw

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ABC

On Tuesday, ABC announced it had canceled its “Roseanne” revival, hours after star Roseanne Barr tweeted a racist comment in which she compared a black former Obama adviser to an ape.

That wasn’t the first time Barr had made controversial comments, and because of that, the “Roseanne” reboot was always at risk.

But it was also ratings gold. The show returned in March after over 20 years to over 18 million viewers for its combined two-episode premiere.

As the weeks went by, viewership slightly decreased. By the beginning of this month, 10 million viewers had tuned in – a 43 percent decrease – and the show fell short of CBS’ “NCIS” for the first time. But it was still the most popular scripted show of the year so far, and for ABC to cancel it so abruptly meant Barr’s comments finally crossed a line.

ABC bet on Trump supporters sticking with the program: Barr is an outspoken supporter herself, and her character on the show is, as well. ABC executives even said the show was a direct result of President Trump’s victory in the 2016 election, and part of the network’s strategy in attracting Trump supporters.

That gamble doesn’t seem to have paid off.

Barr’s tweet on Tuesday may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, but there’s a lot to understand about how exactly “Roseanne” came to an end.

Below is everything you need to know about the “Roseanne” cancellation:


Roseanne Barr, the show’s star and co-creator, is a vocal supporter of President Trump.

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President Donald Trump
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Getty Images

Barr has frequently defended her support of Trump, who even called Barr after the revival’s premiere to congratulate her on the ratings success.


But while Barr’s support of Trump may have been a continuous topic of conversation, it was her history of promoting far-right conspiracy theories that first landed her in hot water.

Barr’s Twitter history was layered with conspiracy theories such as Pizzagate until she deleted much of her Twitter last year. “Pizzagate” was a conspiracy that claimed that Hillary Clinton’s campaign was using a Washington, D.C. pizzeria as a front for a child trafficking ring, which prompted a man to open fire in a crowded pizzeria in December. Barr has also promoted the conspiracy that the death of Democratic National Convention staffer Seth Rich was a DNC cover-up.


Barr also appeared to promote a conspiracy against Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg on Twitter.

In March, just before the “Roseanne” premiere, Barr replied “NAZI SALUTE” to a tweet that tagged Hogg. The tweet was deleted shortly after, but it appeared to be in response to a far-right conspiracy that Hogg raised a Nazi salute at a March for Our Lives rally.


Despite Barr’s promotion of debunked right-wing conspiracies, ABC stuck by the show and defended her.

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ABC

“Roseanne” co-showrunner Bruce Helford defended the show, and told The Hollywood Reporter in April that “Nobody is making anybody watch the show.”

“There should be an understanding that there is a difference between people’s personal politics and what you present onscreen,” Helford said. “We’re hopefully presenting a wonderful, balanced show that doesn’t have an agenda.”

He added: “We consider ourselves guests in the public’s home and as guests we know that people have the option to turn it off if they don’t want to watch.”


But it wasn’t just Barr’s off-screen presence that caused controversy. The show itself alarmed many, including a joke about some of ABC’s minority-led sitcoms.

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Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross play an upper-class couple trying to hold on to their roots in “Black-ish.”
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ABC

On one episode, Roseanne and her husband Dan (played by John Goodman) wake up from a nap with the TV on.

Roseanne says, “We slept from ‘Wheel’ to ‘Kimmel.'”

“We missed all the shows about black and Asian families,” Dan says.

“They’re just like us,” Roseanne replies.

This exchange was in reference to ABC’s minority-led comedies “Fresh Off the Boat” and “Black-ish.” This caused a stir on Twitter, as many didn’t appreciate the idea that the show was trying to compare white, working-class Trump supporters to minorities who are rarely seen on TV.

Hellford responded to this controversy, as well: “We were commenting on the fact that all sitcoms really want everybody to feel included of all diversities and it’s kind of a funny thing.”


And earlier this month, Barr defended an episode of the show that some called Islamophobic.

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ABC

The episode finds Roseanne spying on her Muslim neighbors because she is suspicious of them, and makes numerous racially insensitive jokes. Muslim-American writer Elham Khatami said, “Roseanne thinking her Muslim neighbors are terrorists isn’t funny. Not even for a second. Muslims deal with that bigotry on a daily basis. And it’s dangerous.”

Barr defended the episode by tweeting that she likes “to do TV episodes about REAL ISSUES & REAL PEOPLE.”


“Roseanne” was a huge ratings hit with over 18 million viewers during its two-episode premiere in March. While the ratings decreased over time, it was still the most popular show of the year so far.

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ABC

At the beginning of this month, “Roseanne” fell behind CBS’ “NCIS” for the first time. But its numbers still held strong. It had the most viewers of any scripted show this year so far, according to Nielsen.


Barr posted a racist tweet on Tuesday that compared a former Obama adviser to an ape. Hours later, ABC canceled “Roseanne.”

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ABC

Barr tweeted on Tuesday “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj” in response to a tweet that accused Valerie Jarrett of hiding illegal acts from the Obama White House. Jarrett, a black woman born in Iran, was a senior adviser to former President Barack Obama.

Hours after the tweet, ABC announced it was canceling “Roseanne.”

“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.

Barr’s agency, ICM Partners, also dropped her on Tuesday.


The “Roseanne effect” hit other networks, though. Fox recently revived Tim Allen’s sitcom “Last Man Standing,” which ABC canceled a year ago, because of the early success of “Roseanne.”

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“Last Man Standing” stars Kaitlyn Dever and Tim Allen.
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ABC

“Everyone took a good hard look at the success of Roseanne,” Fox TV group CEO Dana Walden told Deadline. “It reminded us we have a huge iconic star in our Fox family in Tim Allen. And we have been talking to Tim through the year.”

The ratings success of “Roseanne” emboldened Fox to revive “Last Man Standing,” as Allen is a notable conservative. He doesn’t, however, have Barr’s history of controversial statements.