(NBC) — Roseanne Barr went on an extended apology offensive Tuesday night after ABC canceled her hit sitcom “Roseanne” over a tweet in which Barr referred to a former adviser to President Barack Obama as an “ape.”
Barr said she had been under the influence of the prescription sleeping pill Ambien on Monday night when she referred to the adviser, Valerie Jarrett, as a “child” of the “Muslim Brotherhood” and “Planet of the Apes.”
“Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show,” read a statement Tuesday from ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey.
Barr later apologized several times on her Twitter account.
The actress was responding to an online claim that Obama had spied on French presidential candidates and an accusation from a social media user that Jarrett, who was a senior adviser and assistant to the president for intergovernmental affairs in the Obama administration, had helped Obama “hide a lot.”
“Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj” Barr said in a tweet that has been deleted. Jarrett was born in Iran to American parents — her father, a pathologist, directed an American hospital for children — and the family returned to the United States when she was 7 years old.
“I apologize to Valerie Jarrett and to all Americans,” Barr said. “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.”
Barr said late Tuesday that she had been “ambien tweeting” and that she “went too far.” Ambien and similar sleeping aids are formulated on zolpidem, which the Food and Drug Administration classifies as a hypnotic and which has been widely reported to lead some users to undertake uncharacteristic actions without any memory of what they were doing.
She urged her fans not to “feel sorry for me” and apologized specifically 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.”
Don’t feel sorry for me, guys!!-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. I will be on Joe Rogan’s podcast friday.
— Roseanne Barr (@therealroseanne) May 30, 2018
She also confirmed that she wrote a statement made public by BuzzFeed, which said, in part: “Above all, I want to apologize to Valerie Jarrett, as well as to ABC and the cast and crew of the Roseanne show.” The statement concluded: “I apologize from the bottom of my heart and hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive me.”
And she separately apologized to Jarrett individually, saying: “I am very sorry to have hurt you. I hope you can accept this sincere apology!”
The original post was part of a tweet storm by Barr, in which she also apologized to Chelsea Clinton for another tweet in which she described her middle name as “Soros” but falsely claimed that the former first daughter’s husband, Marc Mezvinsky, is a nephew of George Soros, whom Barr called a “Nazi” in another tweet.
Clinton responded to Barr, stating her middle name is “Victoria.” After the apology, Barr admitted the mistake and made another jab at Clinton in a tweet saying she was “married to a son of a corrupt senator.”
Mezvinsky’s father, Ed Mezvinsky, represented an Iowa district as a Democrat in the House in the 1970s. He was convicted of fraud in 2001 and spent five years in federal prison.
Barr’s tweets came nearly a week after the season finale of the newly rebooted “Roseanne” on ABC. The show was the “highest rated and most watched series of the broadcast season,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The cancellation cost ABC $22.7 million, the amount the network booked in advertising revenue from the nine episodes of the now-canceled sitcom, according to figures from the measurement firm iSpot.tv.
Earlier this month, ABC tried to curry favor with advertisers by focusing on “Roseanne’s” huge success during its annual presentation to advertisers in New York, which are aimed at enticing advertisers to commit money to shows for the coming season. The sitcom brought in an unprecedented 18.2 million viewers with its first episode, and while its finale attracted just 10.3 million, it was still viewed as a win for ABC in a world of declining live TV audiences.
Barr even took to the stage to joke that Ben Sherwood, co-chairman of Disney Media Networks, was responsible for her tweets, before adding that she was joking, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Advertisers said they would have abandoned the show if ABC had not canceled it.
“No advertisers would have run in the show anyway,” said Jason Kanefsky, chief investment officer at Havas Media, a media buying agency. “It would have gone on a list where we won’t run on it. Today is Starbucks [diversity training day] — no one wants to be part of this mess.”
Also on Tuesday, Viacom announced that its cable networks, Paramount Network, TV Land, and CMT, will be pulling syndicated reruns of the old “Roseanne” from their schedules as of Wednesday.
And Barr’s talent agency, ICM, also said it would no longer represent her.
“We are all greatly distressed by the disgraceful and unacceptable tweet from Roseanne Barr this morning,” the company said in a statement. “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.”
Barr’s claim that she was under the influence of Ambien has many precedents.
The Food and Drug Administration’s guidance on zolpidem includes the warning that “you may get up out of bed while not being fully awake and do an activity that you do not know you are doing. The next morning, you may not remember that you did anything during the night.”
In 2006, Patrick Kennedy, then a Democratic representative from Rhode Island, pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of prescription drugs, specifically Ambien. He claimed that he remembered nothing about the incident, which brought to public attention the sometimes bizarre side effects of the drug.
In 2011, lawyers for a North Carolina man charged with killing eight people and wounding three others during a shooting rampage at a nursing home in 2009 told jurors that he had been under the influence of Ambien and hadn’t been aware of what he was doing. The man was convicted and was sentenced to life in prison.
Barr’s tweets on Tuesday sparked backlash on social media, with users calling on ABC to fire the actress and to suspend the show’s production.
Before the announcement of the show’s cancellation, the comedian Wanda Sykes tweeted that she would not be returning as “consulting producer.”