NEW YORK (CBS Local) — Earlier this week, Roseanne Barr’s controversial tweets about former White House staffer Valerie Jarrett led ABC to cancel its top-rated show “Roseanne.” The swift move from the network, the powerful statement from ABC president Channing Dungey and Barr’s subsequent tweets make this one of the most infamous cancellations of a show in television history.
Fordham University media professor & author Paul Levinson has written about media and freedom of speech throughout his career, but admit’s he’s never seen a situation quite like this one.
“It is entirely appropriate that ABC fired Roseanne because historically, I can’t think of anyone in Roseanne’s position who made such an outrageous and insulting statement. What Roseanne Barr did is pretty unique in television history and ABC was completely right to fire her. She deserved exactly what she got,” he tells CBS Local.
Barr’s co-star John Goodman finally broke his silence on Thursday and told “Entertainment Tonight” that he would “rather say nothing than cause more trouble.” Barr’s tweets have received a lightning rod of reaction and some have tried to invoke the First Amendment in her defense. Levinson, who is a huge proponent of the First Amendment, doesn’t believe Barr has any ground to stand on there.
“I’m a great believer in freedom of speech and I don’t like to see corporations punish people for what they say. Roseanne’s statement was just so outrageous that it was not entitled to the consideration of even the spirit of the First Amendment,” he says. “She deserved to be fired.”
ABC will now have to scramble for a “Roseanne” replacement. Multiple media outlets have reported that the network is looking into the possibility of a show centered around Goodman’s character Dan Connor. While cancelling its top show will create several short-term and long-term problems, Professor Levinson commends ABC for a gutsy move.
“Roseanne wasn’t a top five or top 10 show, it was the top show on ABC. It does take a lot of courage to fire your top show,” he says. “The competition between the networks is intense. I have even more admiration for ABC making that move.”