By Lisa Richwine and Eric Kelsey
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Walt Disney Co’s ABC network on Tuesday canceled the popular U.S. television comedy “Roseanne” after star Roseanne Barr sparked 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 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.
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, apologized “for making a bad joke” about Jarrett, who is black and was born in Iran to American parents.
Jarrett, through spokesman Jordan Finkelstein, declined to comment.
Hollywood talent agency ICM said in a statement on Tuesday it will no longer represent Barr.
“Roseanne” was ABC’s biggest hit of the 2017-2018 season. The show drew an average of 18.7 million viewers, second only to CBS sitcom “The Big Bang Theory,” according to Nielsen data through May 20.
ABC aired 10 episodes of “Roseanne” from March until May. In late March, the network announced it had renewed the show for another season.
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.
Disney shares, which had fallen on a disappointing debut for the latest “Star Wars” movie, were down 2.5 percent at $99.59 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Markets were down sharply overall on concerns about political instability in Italy.
Earlier this month, the Roseanne reboot was the toast of ABC’s “upfront” event, where major advertisers and media gather to buy ads and preview the next season’s programming.
In the presentation at Lincoln Center in New York, President of Disney/ABC Television Group Ben Sherwood said it was the first time his network could boast of having the No. 1 TV show in 24 years, according to several media reports. He claimed one in 10 Americans had seen “Roseanne.”
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 ABC canceled 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 canceled,” 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.
Tuesday’s furor echoed a 2013 incident in which Barr, in a subsequently deleted tweet, said black former Obama administration national security adviser Susan Rice “is a man with big swinging ape balls.”
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Eric Kelsey; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Cynthia Osterman)