Disney’s ABC network made the right decision to cancel its hit sitcom “Roseanne” after its namesake star published a repulsive racist rant on Twitter.
The company’s swift response Tuesday to Roseanne Barr’s inexcusable behavior is a standout example of a major company walking the talk and upholding core values, regardless of cost.
Such leadership is needed as America works to acknowledge and address bias, racism and sexism, and mend the deep cultural divides exposed by the 2016 presidential election.
“Roseanne” could have been a platform to confront such issues, but Barr squandered the opportunity with vile and misinformed Twitter rants that threatened the credibility of the show and the network.
The breaking point came when Barr compared Valerie Jarrett, an African-American woman who was a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, to an ape in a tweet early Tuesday. She deleted it and apologized, but the damage was done.
Within hours, ABC said Barr’s Twitter statement was “abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values and we have decided to cancel her show.”
That was a remarkable turn. ABC in late March renewed the rebooted “Roseanne” show for another season after its debut was a breakout success. The cancellation announcement contributed to a decline in Disney stock Tuesday that erased billions from its market value.
This was not a partisan decision or an example of political correctness run amok. ABC had invested in a show presenting a conservative viewpoint of a working-class family, a perspective that resonated with a swath of America.
Balance, provocation and edginess are elements of mainstream entertainment. Barr also has the right to offend and say most anything she wants, thanks to the First Amendment.
But she crossed the line of decency, making her a rotten choice to be a face of America’s working-class conservatives and a flag bearer for one of the world’s largest entertainment companies.
Barr’s Twitter tirade included vicious personal attacks and echoes of extremist conspiracy theories. Her Jarrett tweet was part of an extended rant, including false claims about George Soros and Chelsea Clinton that suggested Barr has been drinking heavily from the cesspool of fringe politics.
ABC’s decision to cancel came the same day as Starbucks closed company-owned stores across the country for bias training. The training was in response to a badly handled April incident in Philadelphia, after the arrests of two black visitors while waiting for a business contact.
The omnipresent glare of social media is exposing all manner of wrongdoings and prompting moments of reckoning for public and private organizations and individuals.
ABC’s fast and principled response with “Roseanne” sets a new standard for companies that must confront major problems brought to light in this new era and uphold their stated values.