Mark the date down. Today is an anomaly in the entertainment business – or maybe in business overall.
Today is the day that, when confronted with egregious behaviour on the part of one of its employees, Roseanne Barr, ABC did exactly the right thing. Mere hours after Roseanne tweeted something so repugnant that even she knew and deleted it shortly after, without having to be chided or waffling or prevaricating for two weeks before finally whimpering to the right decision, ABC cancelled her show.
If you’ve been in a massive meeting all day or somehow missed this happening in real time, early this morning, Roseanne Barr posted a really filthy tweet – now deleted, natch. In it, she insulted Valerie Jarrett – a close advisor and friend of Barack and Michelle Obama both during and after his presidency – in racist terms so completely unmistakable a five-year-old would know it wasn’t ‘just a joke’. She compared her to an ape, and also managed to insult Muslims in the process. I want to mention that because, even though the story is that she deleted the tweet and apologized, she didn’t do either of those things before doubling down when someone called her out for the racist tweet and responding, “Muslims r NOT a race!” So.
Roseanne “apologized” for her “joke” but too little too late – everyone was waiting for ABC to wake up and respond. Because they knew, like we all knew, that it wasn’t a joke, and nobody was under any illusions that this was just the racism Roseanne has proudly not hidden coming out to play.
At 12 PM EST I was heading into a meeting but thinking to myself that the clock was ticking - start of the business day after the long weekend gave them a few minutes to play with, but they needed to respond fast. After all, Wanda Sykes had already responded:
And so had Executive Producer and ‘revival architect’ Sara Gilbert.
Roseanne’s recent comments about Valerie Jarrett, and so much more, are abhorrent and do not reflect the beliefs of our cast and crew or anyone associated with our show. I am disappointed in her actions to say the least.— sara gilbert (@THEsaragilbert) May 29, 2018
This is incredibly sad and difficult for all of us, as we’ve created a show that we believe in, are proud of, and that audiences love— one that is separate and apart from the opinions and words of one cast member.— sara gilbert (@THEsaragilbert) May 29, 2018
(More on Sara in a minute).
Late in the morning, ABC president Channing Dungey released this beautifully terse statement:
"Roseanne's Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show."
Yes. Boom. What else needs to be said? Except maybe to point out that Dungey is a black woman, and there are few black female executives, in Hollywood and beyond, which speaks to power and what happens when it’s diversely dispersed, and that on some level she must have felt a grim satisfaction at being able to take swift decisive action here. Or that moments later, the Chairman & CEO of The Walt Disney Company, Robert Iger, essentially Dungey’s boss, said, “There was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing.”
Look. I don’t want to give someone a cookie for merely doing the right thing. This should be a no-brainer. If someone is a f-cking horrible human being, you don’t want them at your organization.
But the other no-brainer in this situation, at least until yesterday, was the absolute juggernaut of ratings that the Roseanne revival brought in to ABC. Dungey was being credited with having shepherded in a ‘multi-cam revival’, as Lainey and I discussed on the podcast a couple of weeks ago. It was an unqualified win and made ABC look like astute programmers. So it’s notable. Because sometimes – and I don’t mean to shock you here, but sometimes – businesses have a hard time doing the right thing if it’s going to negatively affect their bottom line.
But they did it and it’s just an unqualified good move. I feel maybe a little badly for the other members of the cast, but I’d lay a lot of money that more than a few of them are secretly relieved. There is a little shade being thrown at Sara Gilbert because while she immediately tweeted her disgust and distanced the show from ‘one cast member’ she didn’t publicly call for her dismissal. But I will remind you all that Sara Gilbert probably has Channing Dungey’s phone number. I’m pretty sure these two were on the same page here.
I’ll extend my goodwill to ICM Partners, who dropped Roseanne as a client ‘effective immediately’. I hope they all are walking around feeling like they deserve a cookie, because maybe they’ll get to like the feeling and start doing the right thing as a matter of course.
Now… the cynical side of me says this was particularly swift not just because it was horrible and Valerie Jarrett is a friend of a beloved (in certain circles) president, but because… last week the Obamas signed a massive Netflix deal. Meaning some or all of the players here were not only doing the right thing, but positioning themselves in a positive place opposite people who may soon be their co-workers. Which makes the ‘no-brainer’ aspect even more apparent, doesn’t it?
It’s the right decision but it was the only decision possible. So, no cookies here – just the nice calm satisfaction of knowing that at least one horrible unapologetic racist has finally come to the end of the line.