Comedian Roseanne Barr saw her titular show canceled Tuesday, after enormous blowback following her racist tweet about a former adviser to President Obama. Barr apologized in part by claiming she had been "Ambien tweeting." But on Wednesday, the maker of Ambien tweeted about Roseanne's apparent insinuation that Ambien was the reason she posted a racist comment.
The account for Sanofi US, which manufactures the popular sleep aid Ambien, tweeted on Wednesday that "while all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication." The company prefaced that observation by noting that "people of all races, religions and nationalities work at Sanofi every day to improve the lives of people around the world."
Barr's original tweet came on Monday night, when she wrote: "Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj." The "vj" was in reference to Valerie Jarrett, a top adviser to Obama during his two terms in office. Barr has since deleted and apologized for the tweet.
However, in one of her subsequent mea culpas, Barr wrote on Twitter that "It was 2 in the morning and I was ambien tweeting." She prefaced that by writing that her comment about Jarrett was "unforgivable" and asking her followers to refrain from defending it. But though Barr has since also deleted the Ambien tweet, the drug maker Sanofi still clearly felt the need to respond.
Plenty of Twitter users had already called Barr out for leaning on Ambien to defend herself. Not many people appeared to buy the excuse that a sleeping pill can ignite racist thoughts were none previously existed.
As a result of the controversy, ABC announced Tuesday that it would cancel "Roseanne," the hit reboot of a sitcom that became a cultural icon of working class life during its original run from 1988 - 1997. In a statement ABC called Barr's tweet "abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values."
The decision will cost ABC a significant chunk of change. As of its cancellation, "Roseanne" was the most-watched show on television, beating out other ratings kings, even topping NFL games. Ten million viewers tuned into the weekly broadcast. In comparison, all three major cable news networks — CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC — combined pull in an average of six million viewers per night.
For her part, Jarrett responded to Barr's tweet by saying "We have to turn it into a teaching moment." With the cancellation of "Roseanne," it certainly has become one. The message ABC sent by scrapping its most popular — and ergo, lucrative — program was clear: racism will not be abided, no matter the cost.
Barr is no stranger to controversy. She came under fire back in 1990 for what many saw as a disrespectful rendition of the National Anthem. More recently, Barr accused Parkland survivor David Hogg of giving a Nazi salute, when in fact he was just raising his fist. She has since deleted that tweet as well, and remarked that the image she saw had been "doctored" to make Hogg appear differently.
As BuzzFeed reports, Barr also tweeted in 2015 that she hoped "all the Jews leave UC Davis & it then gets nuked!" after students voted in favor of a BDS (Boycott, Divest, and Sanction) campaign against companies whose business at entangled them with Israel. Barr even tweeted in earnest about the debunked PizzaGate conspiracy theory. She wrote in 2016 that congressional Democrats were opposed to then-nominee for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, because he would "prosecute #HRC-and make arrests over #PedoGate."
But given her show's cancellation, Barr's latest tweet is more costly than her previous controversies. And Ambien's maker was unwilling to take any of the blame off Barr's shoulders.