There has been no escaping the news of the swift downfall of Roseanne Barr. In case you needed reminding, within hours of making racist remarks on Twitter about Obama’s former Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, ABC had cancelled the hugely successful revival of her sitcom Roseanne. ABC president Channing Dungey issued a statement calling Barr’s remarks ‘abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values.’
Roseanne Barr is no stranger to controversy. She screeched the American national anthem at a baseball game in 1990 and recently tweeted about a conspiracy theory concerning Parkland activist David Hogg. Barr is an open Trump supporter and the revival of Roseanne focused on the on-screen Roseanne reflecting the political inclinations of the off-screen one. The show aimed to present an alternative portrayal of Trump supporters; not as racist, backwards hillbillies as they are often viewed but instead through the medium of a blue-collar family comedy.
Conservatives and liberals alike were quick to distance themselves from Barr after that tweet. Regarding Valerie Jarrett, a woman of European and African-American descent, Barr tweeted ‘muslim brotherhood and planet of the apes had a baby.’ It’s textbook racism. Refer to the historical likening of black people to monkeys and throw in a reference to the Obama birther conspiracy theories and you have yourself the perfect racist tweet.
What is most interesting about the Roseanne scandal are the parallels that have been drawn between her comments and the comments of Samantha Bee. The late night talk show host called Ivanka Trump a ‘feckless cunt’ after showing a photo of her cuddling her son in the midst of a political scandal regarding immigration policies that involve families being violently separated at the US border. While ‘cunt’ is used quite commonly in the UK, it’s a word barely ever used in the US.
Cries of a double standard spread across the internet, namely protesting against Barr being kicked to the curb while Bee simply apologised and was allowed to carry on. Weren’t Bee’s comments worse? They were broadcast on a national TV show, seemingly with the producer’s consent, and the First Daughter had been referred to in demeaning, misogynistic terms. Is there a double standard when it comes to punishments for those who identify as liberals compared to those who identify as conservatives?
Drawing a parallel between the comments of Barr and Bee creates a false equivalency; the remarks are inherently different. While Bee was vulgar, Barr was racist. While Bee was on her TV show presenting a heightened persona of herself, Barr was on Twitter, being her true self. The cries of misogyny about Bee’s statements echo the cries of misogyny after the White House Correspondent’s Dinner. Much criticism was hurled at Michelle Wolf, lambasting her for a joke mocking press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sander’s looks. But this is another false equivalency; such a joke doesn’t exist. The only reference to her appearance is in a joke about her smoky eye with Wolf riffing on the constant lying that Sander’s indulges in.
Trump and his supporters seem very selective in their outrage. No one has forgotten that the president who called on ABC to fire Bee called certain African countries as ‘shitholes’, referred to NFL players who peacefully protested as ‘sons of bitches’ and to women as mere pussies to be grabbed.
The hypocrisy with such faux offense and outrage is characteristic of the current right wing rhetoric which serves only to widen the political divide. Equating the comments of Barr and Bee as equal grounds for dismissal is misguided and is as dangerous as any Ambien fuelled tweet.