'I was BDSed by ABC'

Defiant Roseanne Barr says show got canceled because she was ‘defending Israel’

Controversial comedian tells overwhelmingly supportive crowd in Tel Aviv she was targeted for her support of Israel, proud Judaism

Comedian Roseanne Barr speaks in Tel Aviv on January 28, 2019, at an event organized by the Tel Aviv International Salon in partnership with The Times of Israel. (Times of Israel staff)
Comedian Roseanne Barr speaks in Tel Aviv on January 28, 2019, at an event organized by the Tel Aviv International Salon in partnership with The Times of Israel. (Times of Israel staff)

An unrepentant Roseanne Barr told hundreds of people in Tel Aviv that her hit show was canceled because of her support for Israel, and that Hollywood “tried to kill me” after a controversial Tweet prompted the ABC network to cancel the revival of her “Roseannesitcom. Barr said that she drew on her Jewish faith and love for Israel to “weather the storm.”

“It was six months of walking through the dark night of the soul but Hashem [God] was with me the whole way,” Barr told an enthusiastic crowd of some 500 at an event organized by the Tel Aviv International Salon in partnership with The Times of Israel on Monday evening.

Barr is famous for her role as the star of “Roseanne,” a hugely successful sitcom about a working class family that ran from 1988 to 1997 and was resurrected in 2018. Over the past years, Barr has made a number of controversial and racist Twitter posts, some promoting conspiracy theories. Last May, Barr tweeted about former Barack Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, an African-American woman, generating the most backlash: “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.”

Barr later deleted the tweet and apologized, but ABC canceled the show. ABC later brought back a spinoff called “The Conners,” without Barr, but the show has failed to gain the same popularity.

Although she was contrite in the immediate aftermath of the tweet, Barr, amidst a wildly supportive audience in Israel, was adamant that she had done nothing wrong and had been “misunderstood.” She blamed the show’s cancellation on her support for Israel and blatant anti-Semitism in Hollywood.

“I was BDSed by ABC,” said Barr. “I feel like I’ve apologized to people who didn’t understand my tweet, people who were too [expletive] stupid. I went on Twitter for the express purpose of defending Israel.”

Barr’s claims on Twitter have included promoting false information like Chelsea Clinton is married to the nephew of George Soros, or that Soros is a Nazi who turned in fellow Jews. She has called Hillary Clinton an anti-Semite and said her top aide, Huma Abedin, was a “filthy Nazi whore.”

Speaking about her controversies and outspoken behavior, Barr compared herself to her Lithuanian grandmother, who always called in to a local radio show whenever anything was said about Jews, being sure to tell the host, in her heavy accent, that what was said wasn’t true. “I just realized, I’m my grandmother,” she said. 

Barr stood by her behavior on Twitter. “I’m just here to defend the Jewish people,” she said. “There’s grotesque anti-Semitism growing every day – coming from right and now left every day. That’s why I left the left. We’ve got to get the Jews to leave the Democratic plantation.”

Barr and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the author and media personality who has been accompanying her at a series of events, went on alternating rants for the better part of two hours about growing anti-Semitism in America and the importance of Israel, to a crowd that plainly overwhelmingly felt the same way.

Tamar Dunbar, a writer from Los Angeles who has lived in Israel for the past four years, said the evening was like a “breath of fresh air.”

“There’s so much more freedom in Israel. In America, you wouldn’t be able to clap for the things that we clapped for tonight,” she said.

One member of the audience heckled Barr, yelling that the attendees were “a bunch of fascists,” and was escorted out of the event after a brief scuffle. Boteach kept shouting, “Can’t we all just calm down here?”

Over the course of the evening, Barr made a number of disparaging comments about media executives and activists who she said had stood in her way and berated her for supporting US President Donald Trump.

Barr said her experience growing up among Holocaust survivors, whom her grandparents helped sponsor in Salt Lake City, shaped her passion for battling anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. “I will never stop fighting against people who hate the Jews,” said a tired-looking Barr, who was losing her voice after a whirlwind tour of events in Israel timed to coincide with the bar mitzvah of one of Boteach’s sons. “I love being Jewish and I love Judaism, I love freedom and Jewish ethics,” she said. (Barr and Boteach host a weekly podcast about the weekly Torah portion.)

“I grew up with people who had tattooed numbers on arms and told horrible stories,” said Barr. “It affected me deeply forever.”

Barr said she was three years old when her parents and grandparents were watching the Eichmann trial, and “thought the world was still like that,” she said. “I was afraid and I was repulsed at humanity at a very early age and it’s never changed.”

When asked whether she saw herself as an assimilated Jew, having not been as publicly Jewish in the earlier years of her career, Barr said she spoke about Judaism frequently on her 1998 CBS talk show, “The Roseanne Show,” which ran for two seasons.

“Those lawyers at CBS didn’t like I was always talking about being Jewish on the talk show,” she said. “The lawyers came in and said ‘nobody knows what Tu Bishvat is,'” referring to the Jewish holiday for the trees that falls in the winter.

Barr said it was “incredible” to her that people “never know that I’m Jewish. People who don’t know that I’m Jewish, that has afforded me some kind of privilege. I get to hear what they say about Jews; you wouldn’t believe it, they’re looking for your horns.”

Barr also espoused some controversial views on Israeli and regional politics. “There is no occupation,” Barr said, to enthusiastic applause. “The only occupation I see is they built a dome on top of our Temple and I’m not allowed to pray at my holiest site.”

In response to a question from a budding comic, Barr said her favorite moment in her career was when the 2018 “Roseanne” reboot became the number one show on ABC with 18 million viewers.

“It was so great, I felt so vindicated,” Barr said. “I felt like I had brought America together, so many families mad at each other because they didn’t vote the same way.”

ABC was expected to gross at least $60 million in ad revenue from “Roseanne” before the series was canceled. Around 200 people who worked on the show lost their jobs after “The Conners” spinoff failed to gain traction.

Barr’s multi-day trip to Israel with her son included visits to the Western Wall and Jerusalem’s Old City with Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, an event in Jerusalem with Labor MK Hilik Bar, and tours of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

“Arabs are from Arabia and Jews are from Judea,” she was quoted as saying during her West Bank visit, referring to the territories’ Biblical name of Judea and Samaria.

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