ABC cancels 'Roseanne' after Roseanne Barr compares black Obama aide Valerie Jarrett to an ape

Key Points
  • ABC announced on Tuesday that it would cancel the sitcom "Roseanne" following the star's "abhorrent" comments about former Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett.
  • "There was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing," Disney CEO Bob Iger said in a tweet following the announcement.
Five outrageous things Roseanne Barr has done over the years
Five outrageous things Roseanne Barr has done

ABC announced on Tuesday that it would cancel the hit sitcom "Roseanne" following "abhorrent" comments from the show's star, Roseanne Barr, who had compared former Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett to an ape.

Just an hour later, Barr's talent agency ICM Partners dropped her as a client, the firm confirmed to CNBC.

Read more: Ambien maker trolls Roseanne: 'Racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication'

Barr's swift downfall comes after a year of successes, including record ratings for her show's debut and a congratulatory call from the president. Throughout, however, Barr has attracted criticism for her use of social media to provoke, attack, and spread conspiracy theories.

"Roseanne's Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show," Channing Dungey, president of ABC Entertainment, said in a statement Tuesday.

In a since-deleted tweet, Barr said of Jarrett: "muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj."

Critics immediately slammed Barr's remark as racist. Likening black people to apes is an attack commonly used by racists. The Muslim Brotherhood, meanwhile, is an Islamist political group. Barr had apologized for her comments earlier in the day and said she would be refraining from using her Twitter account, which was still live at the time of publication.

The CEO of ABC's parent company, the Walt Disney Co., agreed with the decision to cancel the series.

"You can't debate what is morally right," Bob Iger said in an interview with CNBC's David Faber minutes after the announcement.

Iger said there was no debate internally about what to do. He discussed the cancellation with Ben Sherwood, president of the Disney-ABC Television Group, and other executives, according to Faber.

"There was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing," Iger said in a tweet that quoted Dungey's statement.

MSNBC tweet

Iger called Jarrett ahead of the announcement to tell her the show would be canceled, according to MSNBC.

"This should be a teaching moment," Jarrett said during the taping of "Everyday Racism in America," a special airing at 9 pm ET on the news network.

In March, Sherwood told The New York Times that "you can't control Roseanne Barr." "Many who have tried have failed. She's the one and only."

Iger tweet

Dungey, who announced that the show would be canceled, is the first black head of a major broadcast TV network, the Associated Press reported when she was tapped to lead ABC in 2016.

In a statement, ICM Partners said it was "distressed" by Barr's tweet.

"What she wrote is antithetical to our core values, both as individuals and as an agency. Consequently, we have notified her that we will not represent her. Effective immediately, Roseanne Barr is no longer a client."

Streaming platforms and television networks began pulling "Roseanne" reruns Tuesday, according to reports in multiple entertainment industry publications.

Viacom channels Paramount Network, TV Land, and CMT will stop running reruns of the show, the company confirmed to CNBC. Meanwhile, it is no longer possible to stream episodes of the show on the streaming platform Hulu.

Hulu CEO Randy Freer told CNBC's Julia Boorstin Wednesday that removing the show from Hulu would not be "consequential" for the Hulu's finances.

"It wasn't a huge performer for us recently," he said.

Bob Iger: There was no debate about 'Roseanne' cancellation
Bob Iger: There was no debate about 'Roseanne' cancellation

Barr's apology and history of controversial tweets

"I apologize to Valerie Jarrett and to all Americans," Barr wrote on Twitter. "I am truly sorry for making a bad joke about her politics and her looks. I should have known better. Forgive me-my joke was in bad taste."

A representative for Jarrett declined to comment on Barr's tweet.

The actress had earlier defended the statement against other critics on the social media platform.

Defense tweet

"Roseanne" returned to television this year after an initial run in the 1980s and '90s. The show was an immediate hit, with more than 18 million viewers watching the premiere. The show was renewed for a second season in March.

Barr, whose provocative Twitter presence rankled ABC executives, has been an outspoken proponent of President Donald Trump. In March, Trump called Barr to congratulate her on her ratings success.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to comment on the cancellation to NBC News on Tuesday.

ABC cancels 'Roseanne' after racist tweets
ABC cancels 'Roseanne' after racist tweets

Barr is known for promoting conspiracy theories using her Twitter account. Hours before the comments regarding Jarrett, Barr accused Chelsea Clinton of being married to a relative of billionaire investor George Soros, who is the subject of numerous conspiracy theories and invective from the right wing. She later corrected herself.

In a separate tweet on Tuesday, Barr accused Soros of being a Nazi responsible for sending Jews to concentration camps.

Roseanne Nazi accusation

A spokesman for Soros told The New York Times that the "false allegations are insulting to the victims of the Holocaust." Soros fled Hungary in 1947 after surviving Nazi occupation.

Disney shares were down more than two percent Tuesday, though the fall appears to have little to do with "Roseanne." Shares had been falling on the news that the latest "Star Wars" movie performed poorly over Memorial Day weekend.

The show was mentioned only in passing on Disney's last earnings call. "We've got good ratings momentum with a couple of new shows," CFO Christine McCarthy said, according to a FactSet transcript. "American Idol as well as Roseanne."

Disclosure: Comcast, which owns CNBC parent NBCUniversal, is a co-owner of Hulu.