Unlike many others, I was not surprised when, on May 29, Roseanne Barr tweeted a highly offensive racial “joke” about former Obama administration adviser Valerie Jarrett. This “joke” prompted ABC/Disney head Bob Iger, who is Jewish, to cancel the “re-boot” of the TV show Roseanne, despite the fact that it was highly rated and the cancellation would cost ABC millions of dollars.
Long before Donald Trump entered politics, I was appalled by Roseanne Barr (who is Jewish and currently a vocal Trump supporter). Yes, there are people who radically switch political positions for reasons that they lay out in understandable, rational terms. But Barr, 65, takes political stances and changes them for reasons that I can only ascribe to a personality disorder. This is laid out in a must-read Daily Beast article (“How Roseanne Barr Abandoned All Reason and Embraced the Alt-Right”) published on June 23, 2017. The only thing the Daily Beast article doesn’t quite capture is how disordered Barr’s thinking is in a full interview. I saw one interview taped in the summer of 2016 with a conservative host. Try as he might, the host couldn’t extract a coherent summary of her views or why they changed. She spouted “word salad.”
The Daily Beast article also traces her views on Israel. Back in 2009, I wrote a blog-post about her virulent anti-Israeli views and then I had to watch as the Jewish community media lauded her in recent years for her pro-Israel stance. For the last two years, she was even invited to speak before Jewish audiences in the United States and Israel.
My guess is that the Jewish media and Jewish organizations didn’t know or chose not to remember Barr’s quite recent past. Courtesy of the Daily Beast, that past is revealed: In 2009, she called Israel a “Nazi state”; in 2011, a “brutal and undemocratic theocracy.” She also denounced “the ethnic cleansing that is happening in Gaza right now.” In 2012, she ran for president on a left-wing third-party ticket with Cindy Sheehan (who stated numerous times that her soldier son died in Iraq for Israel). But by 2014-2015, Barr swung the other way. In 2016, she began using language that wins no friends for Israel, like calling Muslims pedophiles; and tweeting, “Hillary Clinton is surrounded by Jew haters who make fun of the Holocaust and Jewish suffering.” She also shared a link that said that “Jew hater Hillary Clinton’s ‘handler’ Huma [Abedin] Weiner [a Muslim] is a filthy Nazi whore.”
Most alarming is her support of wacko conspiracy theory sites. Barr particularly likes to re-tweet a conspiracy theory about the “deep state” and Democrats running child sex rings — a charge very much like the totally false “Pizzagate story” (i.e., Hillary Clinton running a sex ring out of a Washington pizza parlor).
Some insight about recent events is provided by comedian Tom Arnold, 59. He was married to Barr from 1990-1994. Arnold, who had one Jewish grandparent, converted to Judaism after marrying Barr. His current wife is Jewish and he’s a practicing Jew and an Israel-supporter.
In interviews with Today and The Hollywood Reporter, he noted that both he and Barr had and have long wrestled with mental problems, which he didn’t describe in detail. Regarding the offensive tweet that resulted in the show’s cancellation, he said: “I knew it was going to happen.”
He had repeatedly sent notes to the show’s staff telling them to take away Roseanne’s phones and stop the tweeting. Obviously, whatever “controls” ABC put on Barr were way too weak and there is much justified criticism of ABC for re-booting Roseanne despite her history of highly offensive tweets.
ABC re-booted because they saw a potential big moneymaker. The Jewish/pro-Israel community saw in Barr a celebrity supporter. Her anti-Israel stance was forgotten. Also ignored was the way in which her recent tweets and re-tweets played more than footsie with alt-right sites that peddle anti-Semitism. You can find, for example, the same or virtually the same racist tweets about African Americans being apes — or lies about billionaire George Soros being a (Jewish) Nazi collaborator — on Barr’s Twitter page and on the sites of dyed-in-the-wool Jew haters.
All Jews should denounce those who attack anyone in horrid and personal terms, even if they support Israel. Embracing such people is not only morally wrong, but it tends to blow up in the face of pro-Israel groups. Is anyone going to invite Barr, now, to a Jewish event? She’s an embarrassment.
Likewise, those on the progressive side who criticize Israel in measured terms should always be on the lookout for the anti-Semitism that is the hallmark of so many anti-Israel groups and not try to rationalize it away.
By the way, reports say it’s possible that Roseanne, minus Ms. Barr, may be re-configured as a series (on ABC or elsewhere), centering around Sarah Gilbert, Roseanne’s TV daughter. My guess: If the cast is willing and the money is right, one of the big outlets will do this.
Nate Bloom is a syndicated columnist and author of the Jewish News’ weekly “Celebrity Jews” column.