For many Americans, Roseanne Barr is “Roseanne,” star of the eponymous sitcom that ran from 1988 to 1997, and again in 2018. But Roseanne Barr is not her character — a quick-witted everymom. In real life and, more noticeably, on Twitter, she’s a conspiracy theory-loving, racist every-troll.
On Tuesday, her trolling came to a head when ABC canceled her show after she likened Barack Obama’s top adviser Valerie Jarrett (who is black) to an ape — a slur so extreme even Fox News called it racist.
This was not a first offense for Barr on Twitter (or in real life). Over the years, her language and ideas have weaved through all kinds of dark and bizarre territory. It’s not exactly consistent, either; it swings across the political spectrum, unified only by its extremity. She promoted Pizzagate. She believes 9/11 was an inside job. She flags vaccine conspiracy theories. She called Israel a “Nazi state” in 2009 and promoted a Holocaust-denying musician in 2013. Then she turned around and became a massive supporter of Israel (and a rabid opponent of the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions movement).
All of this she fired off to her half a million followers on Twitter, many eager to retweet her (including the president’s son).
There have long been two Roseannes: one the working-class hero of Roseanne who said what needed to be said but always had a heart of gold; the other, on Twitter, a raving conspiracy theorist with a political history that stretches from the furthest left to the furthest right.
Roseanne’s long and complicated Twitter history
This March, Roseanne Barr was getting congratulated on Twitter by President Trump and Donald Trump Jr. for the high ratings of the rebooted Roseanne:
That was a big change from four years earlier, almost to the day, when Barr was sued in court for tweeting the name and address of the parents of George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin’s killer.
She later tweeted, “At first I thought it was good to let ppl know that no one can hide anymore ... If Zimmerman isn’t arrested I’ll rt his address again- maybe go 2 his house myself.”
In the lawsuit, Zimmerman’s parents argued that Barr’s tweets put their lives in danger. “It was foreseeable that the tweets would cause Robert and Gladys Zimmerman to have to flee their house in the middle of the night and never to be able to return,” the complaint said.
Barr originally staked out an unusual position on the Martin case, somewhere in between liberals who wanted to see Zimmerman convicted and conservatives who saw the case as a gun rights issue, but not really in line with either:
Roseanne’s Twitter history, much like her personal history, is complicated. This is, after all, the same woman who performed the national anthem so awfully (on purpose, sort of) that then-President George H.W. Bush called her performance “disgraceful.”
Her internet history from before the 2016 presidential election was a cavalcade of strange events: In 2011, she argued that Goldman Sachs should be executed; in 2012, she tweeted about “Jewish mind control”; and in 2013, she heavily promoted a concert by an artist with a history of Holocaust denial and then angrily defended him (calling her detractors “fucking morons”).
And on her personal blog, she repeatedly stated that Israel was a “Nazi state,” adding, “The Jewish Soul is being tortured in Israel.” But just a few years later, after experiencing an “awakening” of her own Jewish identity, she started tweeting about “Islamic pedo culture”:
And after the student government of the University of California Davis campus endorsed the BDS movement, she tweeted that she hoped they’d get “nuked.”
Even when she became known for her support of Donald Trump’s candidacy, her reasoning for the support wasn’t based on personal conservatism (she previously ran for president in 2012 as part of a far-left fringe political party) but on her belief that Hillary Clinton was corrupt and left-wing candidates like Bernie Sanders spend too much time with the pope, who she told an interviewer “owns almost every dollar in the world.” And her tweets about Clinton and those associated with the former secretary of state were unhinged, to put it mildly (many have since been deleted):
(A little background on this tweet: Barr believes that the government is operating a mind control experiment — MK Ultra, which was a real CIA experiment conducted in the 1960s — on Hollywood actors, producers, and filmmakers to make them distrustful of Trump and Republicans. In a conspiracy-minded podcast she appeared on in 2017, she said, “I wish they could hear [Trump’s message] ... they’re not hearing now because they’re under heavy MK Ultra mind control … if you’ve heard of any mind control, MK Ultra being the most successful … when you know how code words work, the actual power of words.” She even appeared on Russia Today to discuss it.)
And her racist tweet about former White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett — ostensibly the reason ABC canceled her show — wasn’t the first time she tweeted racist bromides about Obama officials. She also tweeted about Susan Rice, a black woman who served as Obama’s national security adviser:
ABC tried to separate “Roseanne” from Roseanne. It didn’t work.
Barr’s penchant for online insults, conspiracy theories, and racism was well known by the time the Roseanne revival premiered earlier this year. Barr has a long and extensive history of behavior that would get almost anyone else fired.
And while the show itself was pitched as a means of talking directly to Trump-supporting working-class white America through a Trump-supporting white American, most Trump supporters would be unlikely to tweet something like what Barr said in June 2017: “No Jew can really speak truth anywhere. … No Jew can truly speak as a Jew, yet. But, the time will come.” That’s because Roseanne didn’t speak for “real America.” Roseanne spoke for Roseanne.
Correction: This piece originally misstated the year the Roseanne revival premiered.