How Fox News Has Responded to the Roseanne Barr Drama
On May 29, 2018, ABC canceled Roseanne after its titular star’s Twitter tirade proved to be one controversy too many. Roseanne Barr tweeted that black former Obama aide Valerie Jarrett was the equivalent of what would happen if “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby.”
Barr’s shocking and racist comments, and the network’s swift cancellation move, sent shockwaves through the internet and across cable news. And, unsurprisingly, Fox News in particular had a lot to say about Barr and ABC’s decision to pull the plug.
Here are all the ways Fox News responded to all the Roseanne drama, including the very surprising take from one of the network’s most notorious hosts, Sean Hannity (page 7).
1. Some Fox hosts missed the point entirely
- “Folks on the left have said worse about Trump”
It’s no secret that Fox News has given President Trump more favorable coverage than many other news outlets. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the network found a way to bring his name into the conversation about Barr’s behavior.
Fox & Friends cohost Peter Hegseth took ABC to task for having the “courage” to air Roseanne, only to then backtrack when the controversy proved to be too much. And he called out “the sanctimonious, elite Hollywood crowd mob” for its response to Barr’s tweets.
“I mean, folks on the left have said worse about Trump to almost no consequences,” Hegseth told his co-hosts. “Doesn’t defend what she had to say, which is terrible. But there’s a double standard out there.”
Next: How did Fox tackle the ‘R’ word?
2. One Fox commentator wouldn’t call Barr’s tweet racist
- “It’s just mean-spirited.”
Most people understand that comparing a black person to an ape is racist. But if you ask the contributors on Fox News, they still seem to be a bit confused.
A heated debate arose on Outnumbered Overtime: Was Barr’s tweet racist or not? Harris Faulkner called it “a racist type of conversation.” Jessica Tarlov stated her words were “racist to the nth degree.”
But Noelle Nikpour pushed back on the ‘R’ word. “We live in a politically correct world right now,” she said. And when Tarlov countered, “It’s not political correctness, it’s racism,” Nikpour didn’t back down.
“It’s just mean-spirited,” she argued. To her credit, Tarlov also remained firm in her opinion. “That’s what racism is, implicitly. But it’s important to say racism.”
Next: One Fox host used the Barr drama to make a controversial point.
3. Tucker Carlson called liberals hypocrites
- “American liberals are still living in that strange, irony-free world where it’s possible to denounce racism even as you commit it.”
While some Fox News hosts seemed unsure how to approach talking about the Barr drama, one was glad for a chance to unpack it. Tucker Carlson used Roseanne‘s cancellation as a launching pad to excoriate liberal Americans for living in “Hypocrisyland.”
He spent several minutes sharing what he believed to be examples of racism from liberal activists and politicians. And while he didn’t say that Barr’s tweets weren’t racist, his overt emphasis on everybody else made it clear that he was ready to shift the focus.
Next: Fox News’ attempts to reframe the Barr drama were pretty iffy.
4. They pulled the free speech card
- “It is extremely offensive, but it is just that.”
Talking about racism can be uncomfortable. So, the Outnumbered Overtime crew decided a better use of their time would be to instead discuss whether Barr had a right to say what she said at all.
Faulkner argued that really, it all comes down to the first amendment: “I don’t understand it to be anything other than free speech…It is extremely offensive but it is just that. She says in one of her tweets, there were three rapid-fire today…’It was a joke. It was a miscalculated joke.’”
And then, he doubled down.
Next: Here’s how Faulkner actually defended Barr.
5. Fox hosts tried to defend Barr’s humor
- “Everybody knows her to be a little raunchy and a little rough.”
Faulkner wasn’t the only Fox host that tried to defend Barr. During the May 29, 2018 Outnumbered Overtime segment, Nikpour argued that fans have long known Barr is a controversial figure.
She said, “She is a comedian. She does have a very wicked, twisted sense of humor. Everybody knows her to be a little raunchy and a little rough.”
During the segment, the hosts referenced Barr’s controversial performance of the National Anthem as an example of her previous bad behavior. It was as if to ask viewers, well, what did we expect?
Next: Not all Fox News hosts were ready to go to bat for Barr, though.
6. Shep Smith and Leslie Marshall actually took a stand
- “Racism is not funny and Roseanne Barr is a racist.”
While some Fox News hosts tried to make a case that Barr was a victim, others simply weren’t having it. Shep Smith argued ABC was right to cancel Roseanne, stating, simply, “Racism is not funny and Roseanne Barr is a racist.”
And Leslie Marshall explained to Fox News viewers why Barr’s tweets were the last straw, stating, “[Barr] was on board with ‘Pizzagate.’ She promoted a musician who was a Holocaust denier. She said negative things against another African-American from the Obama Admin… this is a pattern of behavior.”
Next: One Fox News host even had to backtrack on supporting Barr
7. Hannity changed his tune on supporting Barr (more than once)
- “The ‘Proud Deplorable’ SMASHES expectations”
When Roseanne premiered to great ratings in March 2018, Fox News’ Sean Hannity was elated. He tweeted, “The ‘Proud Deplorable’ SMASHES expectations,” and seemed happy to tie the series’ success to Trump and his political legacy.
But after Barr’s racist tweets, even Hannity had to admit that the series’ star had taken things too far. On his radio show, he said her tweet was “outrageous.” And he lamented the perils of 21st century communication, stating, “I think with social media a lot of people just send things out. Especially comedians are always in danger ’cause they just think they’re being funny and they’re not.”
But later, he, too, decried the “double standard” that Barr faced, and insinuated that she was fired not for her racist remarks, but for being conservative.
Next: Laura Ingraham played one of Fox News’ favorite games.
8. Laura Ingraham played a game of Whataboutism
- “So now they do believe in guilt by association?”
Like her fellow Fox News co-hosts, Laura Ingraham was more concerned with what everyone else has ever said than with Barr’s tweets. She devoted a lengthy segment to “the race to blame Trump” for Barr’s tweets. But she quickly pivoted to rehashing several moments moments in which liberal leaders, like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, have been criticized.
According to Ingraham, the left’s anger at Barr isn’t justified because liberals have, too, have said offensive things, or been associated with people who have. Or something.
Next: Fox News will probably have more to respond to where Barr is concerned.
9. Barr’s drama isn’t over yet — and neither is Fox’s coverage
- “I’m not a racist, I never was & I never will be.”
Though Barr initially apologized and said she was leaving Twitter, it didn’t take long for her to come back with a vengeance. On May 30, 2018, she was back to tweeting. She lashed out at her co-stars for abandoning her, and blamed the sleep aide Ambien for her tweets.
And Barr doubled down on her claim that she wasn’t in the wrong. She tweeted, “I’m not a racist, I never was & I never will be. One stupid joke in a lifetime of fighting 4 civil rights 4 all minorities, against networks, studios, at the expense of my nervous system/family/wealth will NEVER b taken from me.”
Fox News continued to cover Barr’s tweets — and given that she said she feels “like fighting back,” they may be in for even more on-air drama in the days to come.
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