Valerie Jarrett, who was the subject of an ugly racist tweet by Roseanne Barr, which set off a chain of events leading to the cancellation of the highly rated Roseanne reboot on ABC, broke her silence today on her views about the disgusting attack on her.
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In her offending tweet, Barr had said Jarrett, was a “child” of the Muslim Brotherhood and the “Planet Of The Apes.” Barr later deleted the tweet and apologized, but it was too little too late.
Although the apes in the movie are the superior creatures in many ways, the reference here was widely seen as comparing Jarrett, who is in part an African American, to an ape, which is a classic racist association.
Jarrett, a 61-year-old attorney, businesswoman and civic leader, used a previously scheduled appearance on MSNBC to participate in a roundtable on “Every Day Racism in America” to say that she feels ABC did the right thing when it canceled Roseanne.
Jarrett, who served as a close counselor to President Obama from his presidential campaign all the way through his White House tenure (2008 to January 2017), said the tone for the kind of comments Barr made “starts at the top,” in this case with President Trump, who is a big Barr fan.
She said she got the news about the show being canceled from the top of Disney when she got a personal phone call from Disney CEO Robert Iger, who knew her from her days working with President Obama.
He told her ABC would shortly announce the cancellation of the show, which was accompanied by a brief announcement that said, “Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values.”
.@ValerieJarrett responds to Roseanne Barr's tweet, saying Disney’s chairman called her before announcing that ABC was canceling the show: "This should be a teaching moment.” #EverydayRacism pic.twitter.com/b0EvA8WAeY
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) May 29, 2018
Jarrett said Iger told her there would be zero tolerance for that type of comment.
“He wanted me to know before he made it public that he was canceling the show,” she said on MSNBC.
Jarrett was aware of what Barr had tweeted but had chosen not to comment before this.
As for her reaction, she said: “we have to turn it into a teaching moment.”
“I’m fine,” she added. “I’m worried about all the people out there who don’t have a circle of friends and followers coming to their defense.”
Noting that Barr used social media to attack her, Jarrett said that while social media can sometimes be a force for good, “it can also dehumanize us because it’s distant. You don’t have to look at the faces you’re attacking.”
She said it is important that Americans discuss these “ordinary examples of racism that happen every single day,” which is why she was glad to be participating in the roundtable.
Jarrett noted that this is happening at the same time Starbucks is closing thousands of stores across the country to discuss racial bias and educate employees on how to avoid and handle day to day racism.
“Hopefully,” added Jarrett, “they’re leading by example and other companies will see they have to do the same. Disney did that today.”
Jarrett was a picture of composure as she spoke, and an example of what class and grace look like even after someone has served in the White House and had access to the highest levels of society, business and government in the world.
Throughout the Obama administration, there were racist attacks on the president, and on Jarrett, but history shows that they did not stop them from acting in good faith and treating people of all races, religions and political persuasions fairly, even if some of their opponents will never agree.