Trump weighs in on Barr and Bee, but here's what he's missing

By James Hibberd
June 01, 2018 at 10:32 AM EDT
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President Donald Trump took to Twitter early Friday to slam comedian Samantha Bee after the TBS host’s profane Ivanka Trump diss caused an uproar.

“Why aren’t they firing no talent Samantha Bee for the horrible language used on her low ratings show?” he tweeted. “A total double standard but that’s O.K., we are Winning, and will be doing so for a long time to come!”

Trump is seemingly referring to ABC firing Roseanne Barr after her racist tweet mocking former Obama aide Valerie Jarrett. Previously the president complained that he never got an apology call from Disney CEO Bob Iger for times when he the network’s talent slammed him.

There are, of course, pretty big differences and distinctions between Barr comparing Jarrett to an ape and Bee calling the president’s daughter a “feckless c—.” Let’s break them down:

Obviously, most people wouldn’t consider racist slurs and a profane word anywhere close to the same ballpark of offensive — coming across as a cruel vulgarian is often survivable (Trump himself is known for his unpresidential use of profanity). Making racist public statements typically ends a career (in this regard, Trump is admittedly not a very good example of such consequences).

But also: Barr’s tweets were her own, while Bee’s show Full Frontal is pre-taped and overseen by TBS. Late Thursday the network admitted, “Those words should not have been aired. It was our mistake too, and we regret it” — so it’s hard for a network to fire a host when it’s partly responsible for what the host said.

And from a business perspective, Barr’s show was on a family friendly broadcast network airing in primetime that entirely depends on advertising revenue to survive — ABC acted quickly, but there’s no doubt had they had they not canceled Roseanne that advertisers would have boycotted the show when it returned in the fall, if not the whole network. While Full Frontal airs on late-night basic cable (which has a dual source of revenue, advertising and subscriptions, and has looser content standards).

“Even as the television landscape changes, the legacy networks like ABC still have to be everything to everyone,” Dr. David Offenberg, an associate professor of entertainment finance at Loyola Marymount University 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.”

Not surprisingly, some celebrities have come to Bee’s defense as well.

Meanwhile, Bee accepted a Television Academy Honors award on Thursday night where she addressed the controversy.

According to IndieWire, Bee told the audience, “Our piece attracted controversy of the worst kind … We spent the day wrestling with the repercussions of one bad word, when we all should have spent the day incensed that as a nation we are wrenching children from their parents and treating people legally seeking asylum as criminals. If we are OK with that then really, who are we?”

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