There was a hashtag trending on social media last week: #istandwithroseanne.
The hashtag was a show of support for Roseanne Barr, the comedian and actress who came under fire for a racist tweet about former Obama aide Valerie Jarrett.
I don’t stand with Roseanne. Her show — Roseanne — was occasionally funny in its original version. It was downright hilarious in its politically-charged reboot. It’s sad to see it canceled — even if its resounding success makes it likely that some cable network will pick it up.
But I don’t stand with Roseanne.
What Roseanne said, suggesting that Jarrett would be the result of offspring between the Muslim Brotherhood and Planet of the Apes, was mean-spirited, hateful and bigoted. I can’t stand with mean-spirited and bigoted people. Our society is in the shape it’s in today because of too many people who are just like that, and our rush to condone their behavior (and, unfortunately, adopt their way of thinking as our own).
I’m usually the first to balk when the “race card” is played. Too many times, self-proclaimed advocates for social justice cry racism when the intent of the commentator is anything but. Roseanne’s attack on Jarrett, however, was indefensibly racist. With her comment she invoked a racist meme that’s been socially unjustifiable since before she was born.
So, no, I don’t stand with Roseanne. And I don’t have fault ABC for canceling her show on the premise that it doesn’t want to be associated with such bigoted, bitter behavior.
But I have a question for the network and its parent company, Disney: When is The View going to be canceled?
Lest we’ve forgotten, it has been less than four months since The View host Joy Behar mocked the Christian faith of Vice President Mike Pence, calling it a “mental illness.” ABC did not cancel The View, did not remove Behar from its panel. Behar later apologized — but so did Roseanne, for whatever those apologies are worth.
The message that ABC is sending through its swift action to remove Roseanne and its reluctance to act on Behar is that it’s okay to insult the Christian faith and not okay to insult the Muslim faith. That’s hardly the start of a new trend, and it’s hardly surprising. But it’s not okay and should not be condoned as okay. Intolerance is intolerance, regardless of which subset of people it’s aimed at.
The issue goes beyond the matter of faith. It underscores a double standard that permeates American show biz. It’s why the same people who understandably rushed to Valerie Jarrett’s defense last week tilted the other way when comedian Michelle Wolf attacked the looks of White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee at last month’s White House Correspondents Dinner. It’s why everyone shrugged when late-night superstar David Letterman joked that Sarah Palin’s daughter was impregnated by a baseball star at a Yankees game back in 2009.
It’s why ESPN — which, like ABC, is owned by Disney — recently promoted controversial MSNBC host Keith Olbermann despite his hate-laced comments that have been directed towards members of the Trump administration. Olbermann, who is openly bigoted, has frequently used Twitter to direct his hate-laced tirades at members of the Trump team, calling the president himself a “white supremacist neo-nazi.” Such comments towards a sitting U.S. president would’ve once been considered socially unacceptable but are now okay — at least for some.
This isn’t a free speech issue. The First Amendment guarantees Americans the right to speak out against their government without fear of retribution. It does not shield them from the consequences associated with their speech. Roseanne has long had an ugly personality, and Jarrett isn’t the first female political figure to suffer her wrath; in 2013, she said that Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, “is a man with big swinging ape balls.”
There has been a startling rise in hatefulness and intolerance since we entered the digital era. For it to stop, those with platforms that reach millions of people must lead the way. I don’t stand with Roseanne. She’s reaping what she sowed. But the sauce that’s good for the goose is good for the gander, as the old folks used to say. And it’s time we apply our standards evenly.