Valerie Jarrett: Roseanne Barr’s Tweet Should be a ‘Teaching Moment’

Valerie Jarrett, the former senior advisor to President Barack Obama, said a racist tweet from actor Roseanne Barr should be used as a “teaching moment.”

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In a tweet early Tuesday, the “Roseanne” star referred to Jarrett as a product of the Muslim Brotherhood and the “Planet of the Apes.” The tweet has since been deleted.

Screenshot of Roseanne Barr's tweet.Screenshot of Roseanne Barr's tweet.

On MSNBC’s “Everyday Racism in America” on Tuesday, Jarrett said she was fine. Now a distinguished senior fellow at the University of Chicago Law School, Jarrett was slated to participate in the town hall on racism before Barr made her comments.

“I think we need to turn it into a teaching moment,” Jarrett said. “I’m worried about all the people out there who don’t have a circle of friends and followers who don’t come right to their defense. The person who’s walking down the street minding their own business and they see somebody cling to their purse, or walk across the street.”

She also said the tone surrounding racism begins with the president.

“Tone does start at the top. We like to look up to our president and we feel as though he reflects the values of our country,” Jarrett said on MSNBC. “But I also think every individual citizen has the responsibility too, and it’s up to all of us to push back. Our government is only going to be as good as we make it be.”

ABC canceled its hit reboot of “Roseanne” on Tuesday following the incident. ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey said the statement was “abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values.”

Barr later apologized via Twitter for making a “bad joke.” 

And then, in a series of tweets late Tuesday evening and early Wednesday, Barr said she had been “ambien tweeting” when she posted the offensive remark.

In a since deleted tweet, Barr wrote: “Guys I did something unforgiveable so do not defend me. It was 2 in the morning and I was ambien tweeting-it was memorial day too-i went 2 far & do not want it defended-it was egregious Indefensible. I made a mistake I wish I hadn’t but...don’t defend it please. ty”

Sanofi US, which produces Ambien, was quick to respond, writing on Twitter that “racism is not a known side effect” of any of its drugs.

(The most common side effects of Ambien are drowsiness, dizziness, diarrhea and grogginess or feeling as if you have been drugged, according to the Ambien medication guide posted on Sanofi’s website.)

The Rev. Jesse Jackson called Jarrett “an outstanding public servant and a woman of integrity.”

“She does not deserve to be mocked as she was in Roseanne Barr’s racially-charged tweet. No one does,” Jackson said in a statement. “But Barr’s tweet – a bad joke, she insists – is part of a toxic climate, an echo of the mean-spirited tone set at the top.”

Jackson says not only did Barr embarass and disgrace herself, “She also hurt her colleagues. The writers, actors, camera operators and others who worked so hard to make ‘Rosanne’ a hit sitcom are now out of work. There’s nothing funny about that.”

“Roseanne” actors Emma Kenney and Sara Gilbert decried Barr’s comments on Twitter. “I am hurt, embarrassed, and disappointed,” Kenney wrote.

Gilbert said Barr’s comments “do not reflect the beliefs of our cast and crew or anyone associated with our show.”

Contact Kristen Thometz: @kristenthometz | kthometz@wttw.com | (773) 509-5452


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