LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday suggested an executive behind ABC’s cancellation of sitcom “Roseanne” was biased while the White House said it did not defend comedian Roseanne Barr’s racist tweet that sparked the decision.
Barr sparked widespread anger with a tweet on Tuesday comparing black former Obama administration adviser Valerie Jarrett to an ape. Barr wrote in a now-deleted message that if the Islamist political movement “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby = vj.”
The tweet led the ABC network, owned by Walt Disney Co, to cancel its hit revival of her “Roseanne” sitcom. Trump has cited the program’s popularity as evidence that his supporters, who include Barr, want shows that speak to their concerns.
Jarrett said on Tuesday that Disney CEO Bob Iger called her before ABC announced the show’s cancellation.
“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?” Trump said on Twitter. Trump has been a persistent critic of the news media throughout his election campaign and presidency.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders elaborated on Trump’s comments at a media briefing.
“The president is simply calling out the media bias. No one is defending what she said,” Sanders said.
She brought up several examples of what she called a media slant against Trump. These included comments made by ABC’s “The View” host Joy Behar about Vice President Mike Pence’s Christian faith, comedian Kathy Griffin’s comments about Trump on the same television program and ESPN’s recent hiring of television personality Keith Olbermann, who called Trump a white supremacist. ESPN is majority owned by Disney.
Iger last year quit a Trump advisory council because of the president’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. Iger told Vogue magazine last month that he had considered running for president but decided against it to focus on business.
ABC and Disney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Barr blamed her late-night message on the sleep aid Ambien.
“It was 2 in the morning and I was Ambien tweeting-it was memorial day too-i went 2 far & do not want it defended-it was egregious Indefensible,” she wrote in a message that has since been deleted. “I made a mistake I wish I hadn’t but...don’t defend it please.”
Ambien’s maker, Sanofi, responded.
“While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication,” its U.S. arm said on Twitter.
On Tuesday, Barr had apologized “for making a bad joke” about Jarrett.
“Don’t feel sorry for me, guys!!,” Barr said in a tweet on Tuesday. “I just want to apologize to the hundreds of people, and wonderful writers (all liberal) and talented actors who lost their jobs on my show due to my stupid tweet.”
But on Wednesday she was in a feisty mood, saying on Twitter she did not know Jarrett was black.
In another tweet, Barr suggested she was being unfairly treated: “One stupid joke in a lifetime of fighting 4 civil rights 4 all minorities...”
She also responded to supportive comments on her Twitter feed, saying, “you guys make me feel like fighting back. I will examine all of my options carefully and get back to U.”
The original “Roseanne” ran from 1988 to 1997, featuring a blue-collar family, the Conners, with overweight parents struggling to get by. It was praised for its realistic portrayal of working-class life.
The current “Roseanne” was ABC’s biggest hit of the 2017-2018 season, drawing an average 18.7 million viewers, second only to CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory,” according to Nielsen data through May 20.
Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Eric Kelsey; additional reporting by Steve Holland in Washington and Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Cynthia Osterman