The inside story of how ABC fired Roseanne Barr

How does the most popular new TV show in America get canceled in a matter of hours?On Tuesday we found out. Al...

Posted: May 30, 2018 11:19 AM
Updated: May 30, 2018 11:19 AM

How does the most popular new TV show in America get canceled in a matter of hours?

On Tuesday we found out. All it takes is a few derogatory tweets by a star, in this case Roseanne Barr, and a few conference calls by network executives.

Executives at ABC and its parent company, Disney, decided early in the day to pull the plug on "Roseanne."

The view inside Disney, according to sources, was that Tuesday was the third or fourth time when Barr's tweets had presented a problem for ABC. This controversy was by far the worst yet.

Tuesday's racist and bizarre tweets were "unsurvivable," one of the sources said. "Enough was enough."

Related: The ABC executive who fired Roseanne hired her last year

Barr was informed by phone ahead of time. But other "Roseanne" producers and cast members only found out about the decision when ABC issued a terse statement shortly before 11 a.m. Pacific time.

Inside ABC, there's now a sense of pride in how quickly this controversy was contained -- but there are lingering questions about why the network got back in business with Barr to begin with.

Here's a look at what happened, hour by hour:

The ABC bosses woke up to Barr's overnight posts attacking Valerie Jarrett, Chelsea Clinton and George Soros.

Clinton, on the East Coast, responded to Barr bright and early, at 7 a.m. Eastern time. She refuted Barr's conspiratorial claim that she is related to Soros.

At the same time, one of Barr's other tweets -- the racist one equating Jarrett to an ape -- was catching fire from outraged Twitter users.

Barr lives in Hawaii, but it's unknown if that is where she was tweeting from. By 9:30 a.m. Eastern, 3:30 a.m. in Hawaii, she was tweeting again, retweeting various conspiracies and responding to Clinton's comment. In her response, she advanced an anti-semitic and debunked idea about Soros.

ABC is headquartered in Burbank, California. By 10 a.m. Eastern, 7 a.m. Pacific, ABC executives were talking by email and phone.

Key executives included ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey; her boss Ben Sherwood, the president of the Disney/ABC Television Group; and his boss Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney.

Related: Disney CEO Bob Iger: It was the 'right thing' to cancel 'Roseanne'

Around 10:30 a.m. Eastern, 7:30 a.m. Pacific, Barr tweeted out an apology to Jarrett. She said she was "leaving Twitter."

But ABC had heard this before -- there have been past flare-ups when Barr pledged to stay away from the social network, only to come back days or weeks later.

ABC executives thought -- and hoped -- that Barr would tone down her tweeting and focus on her sitcom.

But that didn't happen. Barr held onto her beloved Twitter presence and the community she has cultivated there.

So when Tuesday's tweets stirred outrage, the question within ABC quickly became, "Is there a path forward?"

In other words, would any apology by Barr or sanction by ABC be sufficient?

A call was arranged with Barr, her publicist, and executive producer Tom Werner, whose production company Carsey-Werner owns the sitcom.

Barr was contrite on the call, according to a source.

She was told that cancellation was a possibility.

And by 9 a.m. Pacific time, it was clear to the virtually assembled executives that the sitcom was no more.

"There was no way to come back from this," one of the sources said.

While the executives were conferring, critics on social media were starting to point out the network's silence about the controversy. It was starting to get coverage on TV and on major news websites. ABC viewers, advertisers and rival networks were all watching to see what the network would say and do.

It was easy to imagine an ad boycott against "Roseanne" and other ABC programs. However, ABC sources said advertisers were not a factor in the decision.

Related: Why you've been seeing so many revivals of old TV shows

After 9 a.m. Pacific, the conversation among the bosses turned to when and how to cancel the show.

Meantime, some of Barr's colleagues were starting to speak out. Shortly after 9 a.m. Pacific, Wanda Sykes, a consulting producer on the series, said on Twitter that she wouldn't be a part of season two.

Then one of the show's stars, Sara Gilbert, tweeted that Barr's comments were "abhorrent."

She said the sitcom is "separate and apart from the opinions and words of one cast member."

True -- but Barr's name is the title of the show.

According to The New York Times, Tuesday happened to be the writing and producing staff's first day back at work for season two.

An ABC source confirmed this and said the staffers were just beginning to arrive when the cancellation news hit at 10:48 a.m. Pacific.

The executives decided that Dungey should issue the statement, and then Iger would follow up with a tweet.

Dungey kept it to one sentence: "Roseanne's Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show."

Related: It's now a lot harder to watch 'Roseanne,' if you wanted to

Later in the day, an ABC executive expressed regret that more than 200 people involved in the making of "Roseanne" would be out of work as a result of the cancellation.

But the source pointedly blamed Barr, saying "that's the collateral damage that Roseanne has to live with."

On Tuesday evening, Barr tweeted an apology to the show's cast and crew.

"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," she said.

Barr also said that she would appear on comedian Joe Rogan's podcast on Friday.

Before and after that post, Barr retweeted fans who portrayed her as a victim of a liberal media double standard.

One of the retweets claimed that "ABC is allowing the Trump haters to control their station." Some of the other tweets shared by Barr promoted new conspiracy theories. Her pledge to quit Twitter turned out to be very short-lived.

Now there are many outstanding questions:

-- What will ABC schedule Tuesdays at 8 p.m. this fall in place of "Roseanne?"

-- Is there any possibility of a "Roseanne" sitcom without Barr? Some attempt to keep the cast and crew together in some way?

-- Will there be any measurable backlash from her fans?

-- Will President Trump comment at all?

-- What will Barr do next?

Werner, her longtime producing partner, told Deadline.com that he supported ABC's decision.

He said he hoped "Roseanne seeks the help she so clearly needs."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 34622

Reported Deaths: 1215
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds282449
DeSoto186519
Madison141936
Jones118549
Harrison109615
Rankin106315
Neshoba103976
Forrest97243
Lauderdale95481
Scott80915
Jackson74418
Washington70010
Copiah64215
Leake62120
Lee60022
Oktibbeha58928
Holmes57941
Warren57720
Grenada5698
Wayne56018
Yazoo5486
Lowndes53613
Leflore52856
Lamar5227
Lincoln51935
Pike48820
Sunflower4708
Lafayette4644
Monroe43935
Panola4326
Covington4295
Bolivar39418
Simpson3843
Attala38324
Newton36710
Adams34719
Pontotoc3396
Tate33313
Marion32412
Claiborne30011
Winston29611
Chickasaw29319
Pearl River28132
Noxubee2778
Marshall2763
Jasper2716
Clay25611
Walthall2497
Union24611
Smith23712
Coahoma2196
Clarke21725
Lawrence2022
Yalobusha2028
Kemper18314
Tallahatchie1784
Carroll17411
Humphreys16110
Calhoun1605
Montgomery1513
Itawamba1458
Tippah14411
Hancock14113
Webster13411
Jefferson1223
Tunica1213
Jefferson Davis1184
Prentiss1173
George1123
Greene11210
Amite1083
Quitman971
Tishomingo971
Wilkinson969
Alcorn942
Perry794
Choctaw754
Stone732
Franklin542
Sharkey470
Benton440
Issaquena101
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 49892

Reported Deaths: 1077
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson6219167
Mobile4625138
Montgomery4397111
Tuscaloosa258652
Madison19839
Marshall190411
Shelby155724
Lee153537
Morgan12415
Baldwin117011
Walker105631
Elmore100721
Dallas9789
Franklin92816
Etowah91914
DeKalb8647
Russell6650
Chambers66427
Autauga66214
Butler64529
Tallapoosa62569
Unassigned61627
Limestone5963
Houston5616
Lauderdale5556
Cullman5546
St. Clair4842
Colbert4816
Lowndes48022
Escambia4688
Pike4675
Calhoun4565
Coffee4164
Covington40312
Jackson4022
Barbour3772
Bullock37610
Dale3721
Talladega3677
Hale34323
Marengo34211
Clarke3036
Wilcox2998
Chilton2952
Winston2925
Sumter28713
Blount2811
Marion26714
Pickens2626
Monroe2553
Randolph2489
Conecuh2278
Perry2242
Bibb2151
Macon2129
Choctaw20912
Greene1929
Henry1463
Washington1367
Crenshaw1263
Lawrence1210
Cherokee1157
Geneva950
Lamar871
Clay822
Fayette811
Coosa631
Cleburne421
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Clear
93° wxIcon
Hi: 94° Lo: 76°
Feels Like: 97°
Columbus
Clear
90° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 99°
Oxford
Clear
90° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 75°
Feels Like: 95°
Starkville
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 90°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather