Jimmy Kimmel: 'The Roseanne I know could probably use some compassion'
May 31 at 5:36 AM Email the author
Jimmy Kimmel has seen his late-night profile skyrocket through his emotional pleas for health-care legislation, his impassioned calls for gun control and his fierce criticism of President Trump. He has been referred to as âAmericaâs conscience,â and, by all accounts, fits comfortably on the political left.
So it would seem unlikely that Kimmel would voice his support for Roseanne Barr the day after his own network, ABC, ousted her for posting what it called an âabhorrent, repugnantâ tweet about former Barack Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett. But on Wednesday, Kimmel did just that.
âWhat said is indefensible, but angrily attacking a woman who is obviously not well does no good for anyone,â Kimmel tweeted. âPlease take a breath and remember that mental health issues are real. The Roseanne I know could probably use s ome compassion and help right now.â
Amid the fury at Barrâs racist comment, Kimmelâs contrarian tweet was a risk â" and it immediately prompted a barrage of criticism. By asking his followers to âtake a breath,â Kimmel managed to spur even more attacks.
Many critics, including some who professed to be his fans, accused Kimmel of being complicit, or of using mental illness to excuse racism.
âWhat she said is indefensible but youâre going to defend her anyway?â the writer Roxane Gay responded on Twitter. âMental illness, if thatâs what this is, does not excuse racism. It is not synonymous with racism. And critique is not attack.â
âI really like Jimmy Kimmel, so this is disappointing,â wrote Frederick Joseph. âYes, mental health issues are real â" as is racism. Roseanne didnât call Valerie Jarrett an ape because of mental health issues, and she didnât do a nazi holocaust parody photoshoot because of her mental issues.â
Mental illness does not give a person a âfree passâ for bad behavior, tweeted Michael Fischer, âsigned the rest of us with mental illnesses who arenât lucky enough to have a celeb cape for us on twitter.â
âI am sure the people who suffer daily because of racism could use some compassion right now too,â tweeted Dani Bostick.
The comedian Livia Scott tweeted that while Kimmel might know Barr personally, âthis is the time for a text to her, not a tweet to us. Stay in your lane Jimmy.â
By not staying in his âlane,â Kimmel showed the danger in sharing an unpopular, albeit nuanced, opinion in the midst of a national uproar.
Critics began picking apart the late-night hostâs own checkered past involving issues of race. They once again resurfaced a clip from his Comedy Central series âThe Man Show,â which ran from 1999 to 2003, branded as âa joyous celebration of chauvinism.â In at least one episode, Kimmel appeared in full-body brown makeup to portray Utah Jazz player Karl Malone.
One collage of memes read: âRemember kids, Americaâs Moral Authority used to make tv appearances in blackface to mock Oprah and black NBA players.â
âI guess if youâre Jimmy Kimmel itâs ok though even when you know for sure â¦â the tweet stated.
As Barr continued tweeting well into early Thursday morning, she retweeted a post that defended her, saying: âWhile Kimmel, Olbermann, Behar, Sykes & the list goes on, vehemently attack & lie about all of us & @POTUS daily, others like Rosie are destroyed for far less.â
But Kimmel did receive his share of supporters. The actress Andie MacDowell agreed with his call for compassion, tweeting, âThe cream rises to the top with empathy and compassion â¦ two wrongs donât make a right. I hear you. What had to happen happened. No need to be cruel.â
MacDowell followed up by saying she is glad ABC canceled Ba rrâs show, but at âthe same time I donât like to see the Joy people are having kicking her. I want us to be better than that â¦â
While some accused Kimmel of making assumptions about Barrâs mental health, Barr has been fairly open her battles with mental illness over the years. In an interview in Esquire magazine in 2001, she said she suffers from multiple personality disorder.
âItâs like living in a maze,â she told the writer, Mike Sager. âItâs like that old woman who keeps adding on to her house . â¦ But the parts donât get along and some of them have some real strange ideas about how to defend,â said the comedian. But after a decade of therapy, she said at the time, she managed to integrate the personalities and achieve âco-consciousness.â
In a 2012 interview with Piers Morgan, Barr said âthe issue of mental health is very near and dear to me.â After many years, she said, âIâm more centered, Iâm in the best place that I âve ever been in. A lot of that is because I have done the work.â
But Barr has also been known for her unhinged, controversial tweets in recent years. In fact, Kimmel discussed her Twitter usage when he invited Barr onto his show in March to discuss the reboot of her show âRoseanne.â
When Barr mentioned her own campaign for president in 2012, Kimmel said, âyou were kind of the original crazy tweeter running for president.â
Laughing, Barr seemed to agree. âTrump totally stole my act,â she said. âI ran my whole campaign on Twitter in 2012.â
Kimmel asked her about her attacks on Hillary Clinton, saying âI think you accused her of being a murderer on Twitter didnât you.â
âI did not!â Barr insisted. Kimmel responded with a chuckle, â Roseanne, you know Iâm going to find that tweet in the next 40 seconds, right.â
Barr cursed at Kimmel, as they both continued laughing.
âIâm getting in so much trouble,â Barr also said.
âNo youâre not getting in trouble,â Kimmel said. âListen, youâre expressing your views, as crazy as they may be.â
âJimmy Kimmel Live!â aired a re-run on Thursday night. But on Wednesday night, Kimmel addressed the news that ABC was putting an end to âRoseanne.â
âYouâre not going to believe this, but she tweeted something outrageous,â Kimmel said sarcastically. âI know, yeah, right, the president did it too, itâs crazy.â
He called the ABC showâs cancellation a âhuge blowâ to his network.
âWe donât have much on this network,â he said. âWeâre hoping the NBA finals goes 11 games this year. Weâre still airing âAmericaâs Funniest Home Videosâ okay. âRoseanneâ was a very bigly hit for ABC, and we needed it.â
But, Kimmel joked, âthe show must go on.â
âI have an idea that I think makes this work for everyone,â he said. In a sketch, he suggested a reboot of the show without Barr, focused on her co-star John Goodman, who plays Dan Conners. Its title? âDan.â
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