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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 5/30/18

Glenn Greenwald: Why Did ABC Ignore Roseanne Barr's Hateful Tweets Against Arabs & Palestinians?

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On Tuesday ABC canceled its hit show "Roseanne," after its star, Roseanne Barr, fired off a series of racist comments on Twitter. In one tweet, Roseanne wrote, "muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj." It was a reference to Valerie Jarrett, longtime adviser to President Obama, who's African-American. Roseanne also accused billionaire George Soros, who's Jewish, of being a Nazi collaborator and attacked Chelsea Clinton.

The decision to cancel Roseanne was made by Channing Dungey, the first African-American president of a major TV network. The reboot of the hit 1980s sitcom Roseanne last year drew huge audiences and praise from President Trump, who once called Roseanne Barr to congratulate her on the show's success. We speak with Glenn Greenwald in Rio de Janeiro.

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AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I'm Amy Goodman with Juan Gonza'lez, as we spend the rest of the hour with the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald of The intercept. We will talk about his latest expose' on dog experimentation as well as Robert Mueller's probe of President Trump. But we begin with today's big entertainment news.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: On Tuesday, ABC canceled its hit show Roseanne after its star, Roseanne Barr, fired off a series of racist comments on Twitter. In one tweet, Roseanne wrote, "muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj." It was a reference to Valerie Jarrett, long-time adviser to President Obama, who is African American. Roseanne also accused billionaire George Soros, who's Jewish, of being a Nazi collaborator and attacked Chelsea Clinton.

The decision to cancel Roseanne was made by Channing Dungey, the first African American president of a major TV network. The reboot of the hit 1980s sitcom Roseanne last year drew huge audiences and praise from President Trump who once called Roseanne Barr to congratulate her on the show's success.

AMY GOODMAN: Glenn Greenwald joins us now from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he follows the news in the United States and around the world. Glenn, you've just been tweeting about this up until this moment. Now, Roseanne Barr has been tweeting nonstop for the last I don't know how many hours, since she did that initial tweet equating Valerie Jarrett with an ape and being fired by the first African American woman president of a major broadcast network. Talk about the significance of what has just taken place. You have been following what Roseanne Barr has been tweeting for years.

GLENN GREENWALD: Right. I think we ought to be extremely cautious about awarding any praise whatsoever to anybody at ABC for canceling Roseanne's show. There is no question at all that what she tweeted is completely in line and perfectly consistent with what she has been saying and writing and tweeting for many years. ABC had to have known exactly what she thought and the things that she believed when they gave her the show that they gave her.

In fact, I went and looked at -- because I remembered I had a very vitriolic exchange, in fact several of them, with Roseanne, several years ago about Israel. She has become a very fanatical defender of Israel. And in the course of defending Israel, she often spewed some of the most grotesque and overt naked racism against Arabs and Palestinians that you'll hear from any public figure this side of, say, David Duke. She deleted a lot of those tweets but I do remember them because some of the exchanges are still online, in which she was talking about Arabs and Palestinians being inferior, being prone to violence, deserving to be slaughtered and killed.

She had previously said similar things about Susan Rice that she said about Valerie Jarrett. So obviously her comments yesterday received a lot of attention because she now has a show and they were so grotesque -- just viscerally grotesque and racist to any person with a conscience -- that ABC had no choice. But it wasn't like this was something new for Roseanne. This is stuff that she has been saying about lots of different groups, including African Americans, but especially Arabs and Palestinians, for a long time. It's just that Arabs and Palestinians, racism towards them tends to be more acceptable.

I think the other issue is that there's a lot of free speech debates now that center around not what the First Amendment is about, which is government restrictions on free speech, but private actors and their freedom to punish people who express ideas that are threatening to their commercial interest. There was a big controversy when Google fired an employee for expressing his views on the inability of women to compete in the workplace. There's a similar controversy over the NFL now fining and punishing teams whose players kneel in protest of racist police brutality in the national anthem. And now we have this. I think that we need to formulate consistent principles about what our views are, but in Roseanne's case, it was so far over the line of anything decent that I don't think anyone would think that ABC could do anything but fire her.

AMY GOODMAN: In fact, she I think had talked about Susan Rice, former Obama official, compared her to an ape as well, back in 2013.

GLENN GREENWALD: Right. That is what I'm saying is that Roseanne was the biggest TV star in the 1980s. The show that she created and started -- and actually it was pretty revolutionary in American television because it was really the first time that a major television program focused on a working-class family struggling with economic deprivation.

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