ABC cancels Roseanne over racial tweet

Lisa Richwine and Eric Kelsey
Roseanne Barr has apologised for a tweet about a former Obama aide and says she's "leaving" Twitter

Walt Disney Co's ABC network has cancelled the popular US television comedy Roseanne after star Roseanne Barr provoked outrage by comparing a black former Obama administration official to an ape in remarks on Twitter.

The show, a revival of the 1990s hit Roseanne, was the ABC's most widely watched show for the TV season that ended last week.

President Donald Trump has cited its huge viewership as evidence his supporters, who include Barr, want shows that speak to their concerns.

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

Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger added on Twitter: "There was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing."

In a since deleted comment on Twitter, Barr compared former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, 61, to an ape. She wrote that if the Islamist political movement "muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby = vj."

Barr, 65, apologised "for making a bad joke" about Jarrett, who was born in Iran to American parents.

Jarrett, speaking at MSNBC's "Everyday Racism in America" townhall program on Tuesday, said Disney executive Iger had called her before the ABC announced the show's cancellation.

"I think we have to turn it into a teaching moment," Jarrett said at a taping that MSNBC released ahead of its scheduled broadcast.

"I'm fine. I'm worried about all the people out there who don't have a circle of friends and followers coming to their defence."

Hollywood talent agency ICM said in a statement on Tuesday it will no longer represent Barr.

Roseanne, ABC's biggest hit of the 2017-2018 season, drew an average 18.7 million viewers, second only to CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory, according to Nielsen data through to May 20.

The original Roseanne ran from 1988 to 1997. It featured a blue-collar family, the Conners, with overweight parents struggling to get by and was praised for its realistic portrayal of working-class life.

Reaction to Barr's comments by the show's supporting cast added to the pressure on ABC.

Sara Gilbert, who plays daughter Darlene on the series and served as a producer, said on Twitter that Barr's comments were "abhorrent and do not reflect the beliefs of our cast and crew or anyone associated with our show."

Emma Kenney, who plays Gilbert's on-screen daughter Harris, said soon after the ABC cancelled the show that she had been planning to leave the series because of Barr's words.

"As I called my manager to quit working on Roseanne, I found out the show got cancelled," Kenney wrote on Twitter. "Bullies do not win. Ever."

Emmy-winning comedian and Roseanne consulting producer Wanda Sykes was the first prominent figure associated with the show to cut ranks, saying on Twitter she was quitting, hours after Barr's comments.