The makers of Ambien weren’t about to take the accusation lying down.
On Tuesday, Roseanne Barr compared former White House adviser Valerie Jarrett to the progeny of “Planet of the Apes” and the Muslim Brotherhood. She later deleted the tweet and apologized more than once as online outrage grew.
Barr spent the night tweeting apologies to Valerie Jarrett, the Obama official who Barr said looked like a cross between the Muslim Brotherhood and Planet of the Apes. But Barr also retweeted plenty of far right users who believe that ABC was hypocritical to cancel her show, since left-leaning entertainers have said offensive things about President Donald Trump.
But Barr started taking heat yet again when she explained that maybe it was the Ambien that made her do “weird stuff” like send out racist messages.
Barr has since defended herself, writing: “It was 2 in the morning and I was Ambien tweeting,” Barr tweeted. “It was Memorial Day too. I went too far and do not want it defended. It was egregious [and] indefensible.”
“I think Joe Rogan is right about Ambien,” she added, referencing the comedian and UFC host who described the drug as “scary stuff“. “Not giving excuses for what I did (tweeted) but I’ve done weird stuff while on Ambien: cracked eggs on the wall at 2am etc.”
The tweet had roughly 3,000 likes and 495 retweets before she deleted it around 6:20am ET, 3:20 PT. She also deleted a tweet from earlier where she said that “it was 2 in the morning and I was ambien tweeting.”
Sanofi fires back
On Wednesday, the United States team for French-based Sanofi—Ambien’s drugmaker—responded to Barr by tweeting that racism isn’t “a known side effect” of taking its medication.
People of all races, religions and nationalities work at Sanofi every day to improve the lives of people around the world. While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication.
— Sanofi US (@SanofiUS) May 30, 2018
The tweet further fueled conversation online, with Ambien as Twitter’s No. 1 trending topic in the U.S.
Though a misstep such as Barr’s is not listed as one of Ambien’s side effects, USA Today shared several , along with the Food and Drug Administration’s recommendations for its use.
Prior to Sanofi’s response, Dictionary.com took the opportunity to grab attention and tweeted the following:
The name Ambien is thought to come from the word “ambient” or similar words in French. Ambient does not mean “prone to making racist comments,” but it does mean “of the surrounding area or environment.” https://t.co/UpYY5eKzIo https://t.co/XsPn8FthV5
— Dictionary.com (@Dictionarycom) May 30, 2018
— Dictionary.com (@Dictionarycom) May 30, 2018
Erased from their listings
Though Barr is still receiving backlash for her comments, ABC and Disney are being applauded for canceling the show—and quickly: The announcement came only hours after Barr first apologized.
Other networks sought to avoid similar outrage and to stay in viewers’ good graces.
Viacom has pulled “Roseanne” reruns from Paramount Network, TV Land and CMT. The announcement came Tuesday afternoon—shortly after ABC pulled the plug on “Roseanne” and after Barr’s talentagency, ICM Partners, cut ties.
Others quickly followed Viacom’s lead, and ABC continued to erase further references of the show’s episodes.
A Viacom representative declined to comment. A Hulu spokesperson told Variety, “We support ABC’s decision and are removing the show from Hulu.”
‘A teaching moment’
For The Hollywood Reporter, Katie Kilkenny wrote:
On Tuesday, the former senior adviser to the president during the Obama administration, who appeared on MSNBC’s town hall Everyday Racism in America, told the gathered audience of Barr’s tweet, “This should be a teaching moment.”
However, some wondered why it took so long for Barr to face consequences for her controversial tweets.
In an opinion piece for The New York Times, Roxane Gay wrote:
It was a dignified statement to be sure, but one wonders just how many teaching moments we need for white people to no longer feel entitled to comment on or police black bodies. And how much longer will we choose to consume pop culture that encourages such policing, either implicitly or explicitly?
Ms. Barr was free to speak her mind, but she was not free from consequences. Now that she is reaping those consequences, many people are praising ABC and its swift action. But there is no nobility in what anyone involved in “Roseanne” has done at any point during the reboot’s trajectory. Certainly, I empathize with all of the people who are now out of work, particularly those in the trades — the grips, best boys, camera people, production assistants and others who are not famous faces. But I also question what kind of empathy the decision makers had for the targets of Ms. Barr’s hateful rhetoric as they supported this show and her. They seemingly had none. Even at the recent network upfronts, ABC executives were joking about Ms. Barr’s Twitter feed.
… I am more interested in the statement ABC could have made by never making the reboot in the first place.
Brand managers should consider Gay’s comments in light of ABC’s recent decision as well as other reputational crises—one in particular that led Starbucks to close all of its company-owned stores for racial bias training.
The Guardian reported:
The revival of Roseanne was the most popular US show of 2018, with an average of 18 million viewers per episode. The reboot’s debut episode attracted 27.3 million viewers, including those using on-demand services.
[ABC’s] decision — lauded by Barr’s critics and blasted by her fans — speaks to a fraught new corporate era in which companies have been pushed to the front lines of the nation’s contentious cultural debates. In this battleground, swift responses often are seen as the only way to contain a social media firestorm. “You’re looking at a very 21st century challenge,” says Jay Tucker, executive director at the Center for Media, Entertainment & Sports at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. “In an earlier (TV) era, it would have taken half a season to make that decision after much internal analysis.”
However, brand managers are being forced to quickly address both moral and political issues before they threaten to destroy brands’ images.
USA Today reported:
Corporations are making quick calls to avoid permanent damage in a social media age in which angry tweets and Facebook posts can quickly go viral, says Columbia Business School professor William Klepper. “People have been around this circuit too many times,” says Klepper. “Now it’s an issue of: State your values. State what you stand for. Hold to your code of ethics. But if you delay, try to explain away or, worse yet, you try to defend, it’s a lose-lose today.”