One of the second-day narratives that began to emerge after ABC canceled Roseanne Barr’s sitcom was that the comedian was the victim of “one bad tweet.”
Barr herself helped kickstart this, suggesting that the only reason ABC canned Roseanne was due to an Ambien-aided slip-up when she made a racist comment about former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett.
And Thursday, MarketWatch rolled out this headline: “Like Roseanne, all Americans are just one bad tweet away from being fired.”
A story detailing the behind-the-scenes decision-making at ABC by CNN Wednesday, however, suggested it wasn’t just the Jarrett tweet, but rather a pattern of behavior and repeated warnings that resulted in the hit comedy being shut down: “….there have been past flare-ups when Barr pledged to stay away from the social network, only to come back days or weeks later. ABC executives thought — and hoped — that Barr would tone down her tweeting and focus on her sitcom.”
And the Washington Post points out there was also the whole George Soros-is-a-Nazi tweeting that happened that same morning.
So which was it? Just one tweet? Or a long time coming?
A knowledgeable ABC insider tells EW that, yes, it was that specific tweet — that if the actress had never done anything remotely like that before, then perhaps things might have gone differently, but that specific Jarrett tweet was so over the line that it left the network no choice. “She’s allowed to have an opinion but this was different … this was untenable,” the source said. “Sometimes you just have to take a stand.”
The barrage of swift statements from ABC-Disney execs after the cancellation certainly backs that up. ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey said, “Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values,” Disney chairman Bob Iger tweeted, “there was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing,” while ABC TV Group chairman Ben Sherwood said, “In the end, it came down to doing what’s right and upholding our values of inclusion, tolerance, and civility.”
And that’s what it comes down to, observes Dr. David Offenberg, an associate professor of entertainment finance at Loyola Marymount University: ABC’s responsibility to the public and how it is far greater than say, TBS, which found itself embroiled in a similar situation Thursday over a comment made on Full Frontal With Samantha Bee,
“Even as the television landscape changes, the legacy networks like ABC still have to be everything to everyone,” he tells EW. “That’s because they still have to keep the big advertisers happy. It’s their only source of revenue. In comparison, TBS can give Samantha Bee a looser leash, because they get revenue from both subscriber fees and advertising. Even if TBS loses some advertisers, their contracts with the cable networks make it unlikely that they’ll lose subscriber revenue.”
— Lynette Rice contributed to this report