U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday broke his silence about the racism row engulfing supporter Roseanne Barr, not to condemn her outburst but to attack ABC television for purported media bias.
The U.S. network on Tuesday canceled hit sitcom Roseanne, after star Barr fired off a racist tweet against former White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, who was one of Barack Obama’s closest aides.
Jarrett revealed that Bob Iger, the head of ABC parent company Disney, telephoned her personally to tell her the network was cancelling the show. “Bob Iger of ABC called Valerie Jarrett to let her know that ‘ABC does not tolerate comments like those’ made by Roseanne Barr,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday. “Gee, he never called President Donald J. Trump to apologize for the HORRIBLE statements made and said about me on ABC. Maybe I just didn’t get the call?”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders later defended the president, saying that he was hitting out against media bias. “The president is pointing to the hypocrisy in the media,” she said. “This is a double standard that the president is speaking about. No one is defending her comments. They’re inappropriate, but that’s what the point that he was making.”
When the scandal first broke, the White House had deflected questions with Sanders saying: “We have a lot bigger things going on in the country right now.”
Barr, 65 and a vocal Trump supporter who has used Twitter to voice far-right and conspiracy theorist views, took aim at Jarrett in a post that read: “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby = vj.” She later apologized for what she called a “joke.” But ABC said it was canceling the show, condemning her “abhorrent, repugnant” tweet, which was “inconsistent with our values.”
“I’m not a racist, I never was & I never will be,” Barr tweeted on Wednesday, attempting to defend herself against an onslaught of criticism. “One stupid joke in a lifetime of fighting 4 civil rights 4 all minorities, against networks, studios, at the expense of my nervous system/family/wealth will NEVER b taken from me.”
A since-deleted tweet blaming her outburst on a dose of the sleeping pill Ambien, prompted a swift retort from pharma giant Sanofi. “While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication,” tweeted the French pharmaceutical giant in an acerbic post that quickly went viral.
Roseanne had returned to U.S. screens in March after a 21-year hiatus with Barr’s character recast as a Trump supporter in a rare depiction of working class life on the U.S. small screen. The show scored huge ratings and had been renewed for an 11th season following largely positive reviews—including from the president.