ABC Executives Regret Hastily Firing Roseanne Ahead of ‘The Connors’ Debut: Report

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.
October 13, 2018 Updated: October 13, 2018

ABC executives are regretting firing Roseanne Barr so quickly after she made a controversial, racially charged comment on Twitter, and fear the upcoming spinoff “The Connors,” which features many of the same characters minus Roseanne, won’t generate good ratings, according to a new report.

The Daily Mail, quoting two senior executives at the network, who chose to remain anonymous, reported the regret and fear.

“We didn’t think it through properly. What Roseanne did was wrong but we shouldn’t have rushed to fire her. It was almost a knee-jerk reaction by Ben [Sherwood] and Channing [Dungey] who should have launched an investigation,” said one executive.

“This would have given them more time to listen to the public, advertisers and cast members to determine the best decision.”

The “Roseanne” reboot, which started airing earlier this year but stopped after Barr’s firing, was the top scripted series across all networks, averaging 19.3 million total viewers per episode, including a 5.5 rating among the coveted 18-49 demographic.

The show generated much controversy after the main character supported President Donald Trump, a stance not typically seen on mainstream television, which skews to the left.

But the ratings magnet would have continued if not for the Roseanne tweet, and possibly should have continued despite the missive, the executives said, noting other punishment options existed.

Roseanne cast
(L-R, Back Row) Executive producers Whitney Cummings and Tom Werner, actors Ames McNamera, Emma Kenney, Jayden Rey, executive producer Bruce Helford, (l-r, front row) actor Michael Fishman, executive producer/actress Sara Gilbert, actress Laurie Metcalf, executive producer/actress Roseanne Barr, actors John Goodman, Lecy Goranson and Sarah Chalke of the television show ‘Roseanne’ speak onstage during the ABC Television/Disney portion of the 2018 Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena in Pasadena, California on Jan. 8, 2018. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

‘They Could’ve Suspended Her

One executive told the Mail that Roseanne could have been suspended for a few episodes without pay but ultimately allowed to return.

“I mean the season finale saw Roseanne going to the hospital for knee surgery. While they worked out her fate, her character could have faced serious complications and fought for her life, while simultaneously making Roseanne fight for her career with a national apology tour,” the executive said.

“The morning the racist tweet scandal blew up, Roseanne offered to publicly apologize and do the rounds of every show but Ben and Channing weren’t having any of that and wanted her gone. Why not have her front a PSA for the network on racism and cyber bullying?”

One of the executives said that ABC fears the ratings for the “Roseanne” spinoff, “The Connors,” which is set to debut on Oct. 16, will not even be a quarter of what “Roseanne” was drawing earlier this year.

ABC executives regret firing Roseanne
President of ABC Entertainment Group Channing Dungey speaks onstage at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit 2018 at Ritz Carlton Hotel in Laguna Niguel, California on Oct. 2, 2018. (Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for Fortune)

Barr Apologizes, Says She’s Not Racist

Roseanne has repeatedly apologized for the tweet, directed at comparing Valerie Jarett, a former advisor to President Barack Obama.

But she’s also said that she didn’t mean it as a racist comment and that the tweet was misinterpreted.

In a podcast interview in early September, Barr said people were not informed about her.

“(T)hey would put me in the same box where they have people who call for the death of all Jews and want to enslave all black people. [The same box as] real racists that actually exist,” she said. “They put me in a box with them. And how do they think that’s gonna affect me? They don’t think. They’re under mind control.”


Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.