In an allegedly ambien-induced delirium, celebrity Roseanne Barr shot herself in the foot with racist comments on twitter. ABC executives and its parent company, Disney, reacted swiftly and pulled the plug on Barr’s reboot of her popular sitcom, “Roseanne”. The production cast and crew were blindsided, unexpectedly unemployed, and television pundits scrambled to report this “breaking news”. Everyone from philosopher, Dr. Cornel West, to Barr’s ex-husband, Tom Arnold, to the guy who sells donuts down the street quickly weighed in. Roseanne Barr was branded a racist, an idiot, a crude and misguided woman venting her personal issues in the public light.
Admittedly, my first reaction to ABC firing Roseanne Barr was a fervent “bravo!” However, public comments in her defense caused me to take a step back, separate the wheat from the chaff and rethink my position. This is not a simple matter; mixed in with the issues of racism and freedom of speech is a not-so-subtle double standard.
Fact: Roseanne Barr foolishly tweeted racially charged comments. She was fired. She apologized.
Fact: The View’s Joy Behar referred to Vice President Mike Pence’s religion as “a mental illness”. She apologized and kept her seat at the table.
Fact: Comedy Central’s Michelle Wolf delivered an offensive, controversial speech at the 2018 White House Correspondents’ dinner. When criticized, Wolf was unapologetic. Neither she nor Comedy Central apologized. Her star is on the rise; her new show will shortly debut on Netflix.
Fact: Some unknown entity published a doctored photo of Whoopi Goldberg wearing a violent image of President Trump on her shirt. The responsible party has not, to my knowledge, been identified or held accountable.
Fact: Kathy Griffin mockingly beheaded President Trump in a photo-shoot and was promptly fired by CNN.
Fact: White House aide Kelly Sadler responded to Senator John McCain’s opposition to Donald Trump’s pick for CIA director by saying McCain “is dying anyway.” Sadler apologized; the White House did not.
Fact: In December, 2017, a video surfaced of President-elect Donald Trump speaking disparagingly about women in an interview with Entertainment Tonight reporter, Billy Bush. Trump dismissively referred to his remarks as “locker room talk”; Billy Bush was fired. In 2016, Donald Trump publicly mocked a disabled reporter. Trump offered no apology and later denied mimicking the reporter’s disability.
There are glaring inconsistencies in the events cited here (and there are many more not listed) which shed a different light on Roseanne Barr’s firing. Yes, she’s a crude woman. Yes, she tweeted racist comments. Yes, she should be held accountable, but (and as a non-Roseanne Barr fan, I can’t believe I’m saying this) I don’t think she should be fired, not unless every public figure who speaks/writes/performs/governs offensively is subject to the same penalty.