Maybe Roseanne Barr should have run for president.
There don’t seem to be many consequences these days for saying racist, mean or flat untruthful things from the Oval Office.
Saying such things, though, from a perch on network television can lead to a long, hard fall.
That’s what happened to Barr Tuesday.
Just hours after she tweeted, among other things, that Valerie Jarrett, an aide to former President Barack Obama, was like the love child of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Planet of the Apes.
She suggested that Jarrett, an African-American woman, was both a terrorist and an ape.
The reaction was swift.
Wanda Sykes, an African-American executive producer of the “Roseanne” revival, immediately said she was quitting the show. Other cast members started calling in their resignations when they learned that ABC had cancelled the program.
The network did this even though “Roseanne” was a ratings giant, the top-rated show on television.
Incurable optimists saw this as evidence that ABC and its parent company, Disney, have souls and that the corporate chieftains value decency more than they do money.
President Donald Trump could carve a path to the White House by speaking almost exclusively to the animosities of select demographic groups because our political wars have become so tribal.
But mass-media entertainment and communications companies such as ABC and Disney cannot afford to do that. They do not want to reach the segment of the population “Roseanne” spoke to – however significant a minority share it may be – at the exclusion of all others.
Those companies want to sell to everyone.
They need to sell to everyone.
Anyone who makes that difficult – as Roseanne Barr had done – goes from being an asset to a liability faster than Donald Trump can say, “You’re fired.”
Barr’s response to her firing has been almost schizophrenic.
She’s veered from offering abject apologies to complaining that she’s the real victim in this situation to vowing to leave Twitter to returning to Twitter with still more inconsistent and often incoherent utterances.
This is not surprising.
Barr always has been about as stable as the volcanoes in Hawaii now are.
Also not surprising is the defense some of her fans and fellow Trump supporters have mounted that she’s just another victim of “political correctness.” She’s just an entertainer, they say, and she has a right to speak her mind.
These, by and large, are the same folks who have mounted a long campaign to have former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick denied a spot on any NFL roster because he knelt during the national anthem to protest police shootings of unarmed black men.
They are also the same people who cheered, lustily, when the president said that NFL players who knelt during the anthem should be run not just out of the league, but out of America.
What’s good for the goose….
This is a free speech issue, but not in the way Barr’s and Trump’s advocates think.
No one is stopping Roseanne Barr or Colin Kaepernick from speaking. But ABC, Disney and the NFL have chosen not to associate themselves with what Barr and Kaepernick are saying, primarily for business reasons.
ABC and Disney seek a worldwide, inclusive audience. The NFL, for good or ill, draws a heavy share of its fan base from Trump supporters.
Advocates and partisans on either side of America’s great political divide may decry the network’s or the league’s decision not to support certain kinds of speech, but ABC, Disney and the NFL are within their rights to make decisions not to say certain things.
And, as for the nonsense about “political correctness” – well, that’s exactly what it is.
What Barr, Trump and their followers want is the privilege – not the right – to say offensive and antagonistic things without ever offending or angering anyone. They want this even though they cry like branded calves whenever someone looks crosswise at them.
That’s not the way it works.
We have a right in this country to say what we think, but that carries with it the responsibility to be held accountable for what we say.
In the NFL.
On network TV.
And maybe, someday, once again, even in the White House.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.