The Most Problematic Things Roseanne Barr Has Ever Done

When it comes to once-beloved comedians who have become universally loathed pariahs, Bill Cosby is tough to top. However, Roseanne Barr has managed a pretty decent showing herself, thanks to a decades-long comedy career scarred by controversy. 

Yet it didn't have to be that way. When Barr re-emerged in 2018 with a revived version of her mega-hit 1990s sitcom, "Roseanne," she was poised for one of the greatest television comebacks of all time. In fact, the debut episode of the "Roseanne" reboot delivered monster ratings; as Deadline reported, the two-episode premiere, aired back to back, drew 17.7 million and 18.6 million, respectively, numbers that hadn't been witnessed in broadcast television for years before that. Those numbers were so impressive, reported the New York Times, that ABC immediately renewed the revival for a second season. Continued success was all but assured. 

Yet with a single tweet, Barr managed to transform what could have been the biggest triumph of her life into a career-ending humiliation. Sadly, that wasn't the only time that Barr's controversial behavior proved her to be her own worst enemy. For further proof, keep on reading for a rundown of the most problematic things Roseanne Barr has ever done.

Her universally reviled performance of The Star Spangled Banner earned a presidential rebuke

Back in 1990, Roseanne Barr was one of television's hottest stars. Her eponymous sitcom, which debuted in 1988, had taken television by storm, lauded for its frank depiction of a working-class Midwestern American family struggling to make ends meet. 

Yet it took less than 60 seconds for Barr to shift from America's sweetheart to Public Enemy No. 1 when she sang "The Star Spangled Banner" at an MLB game. Not only was her shrill and tuneless rendition of the national anthem met with boos by the crowd, she capped off the cacophonous spectacle by grabbing her crotch and spitting on the ground. So vilified was Barr that she was even criticized by then-President George H. W. Bush, with UPI reporting he slammed the performance as "disgraceful." 

Barr attempted damage control, explaining the crotch-grab and spitting was meant to mock baseball players — known to do both on the baseball diamond — and not America's anthem. "I thought that it would be very funny," she said. "None of this was meant viciously. Nobody feels worse than me." She also defended her tone-deaf singing, insisting, "There's a lot of people that sing like me in this country."

She falsely claimed to be a victim of incest, but later recanted

In 1991, Roseanne Barr shared some shocking news with the congregation of a Denver church, telling them that she was a survival of childhood incest at the hands of her parents. In an essay she wrote for People, Barr accused her mother of doing "lurid" things to her when she was an infant that left her "psychologically and physically" damaged. Worse, Barr alleged that her father "molested me until I left home at age 17," accusing him of doing "grotesque and disgusting things." Barr's parents, Helen and Jerome Barr, denied all her allegations.

In 2011, Barr appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," reported "Access," where she admitted making those accusations was "the worst thing I've ever done," and "the biggest mistake that I've ever made." She didn't completely walk back her claims, however, but said she was "mistaken to use the word incest."

However, when Barr appeared on Fox News' "Hannity" in 2018, she admitted she'd come to "a different view" about her incest allegations. "Now you don't think you were sexually abused?" asked host Sean Hannity, as reported by the Daily Mail. "Well, I think psychologically," Barr replied. "Everybody in my whole family is messed up."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Writers recall the Roseanne set being 'a brutal environment'

Roseanne Barr may have been the star of one of America's most popular sitcoms, but she was not exactly a calming presence behind the scenes. According to an oral history of "Roseanne" in Entertainment Weekly, the already-tumultuous set became even more volatile with the arrival of Tom Arnold, Barr's new husband, who was brought in as executive producer on the show. According to Barr, Arnold "became extremely abusive to people. It was my fault for bringing him there." 

Barr and Arnold stirred up tension with the show's writing staff by constantly rewriting scripts. "The writers had a fear of me and her," Arnold admitted. Among those writers were Joss Whedon and Amy Sherman-Palladino, who went on to create "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Gilmore Girls," respectively. Whedon recalled the "Roseanne" set as a "brutal environment," while Sherman-Palladino remembered the writers each being given numbered shirts to wear, so they could be referred to by their numbers and not their names. "I was number 2," she said. "The writers did not think it was funny."

Barr, however, insisted the numbers were to "strip [writers] of their huge, colossal self-entitlement ... I think they learned something from it."

Her divorce from Tom Arnold was a train wreck

While the behavior of Roseanne Barr and husband Tom Arnold was typically erratic and extreme, that was apparently just a warm-up for what took place when they split up in 1994. The circumstances were characteristically bizarre, following the pair's weird fake "marriage" to assistant Kim Silva, described by the Washington Post as "some sort of prank." The breakup, reported the Post, came on the heels of the spouses' "violent argument" about Silva. Barr responded by changing the locks on their production offices and their home, hiring security guards to prevent Arnold from entering either. She also took a pair of scissors to Arnold's credit cards. 

As the Chicago Tribune reported, in Barr's divorce filing she claimed she'd "been a classic battered and abused wife," alleging that Arnold "hit me, struck me, has thrown objects at me, pinched me and verbally abused me." Citing that old classic "irreconcilable differences," Barr also asked that Arnold not be paid any alimony, and even sought a restraining order against him. 

The following year, Barr married Ben Thomas, whom she'd previously employed as her bodyguard. They divorced in 2002, and share a son, Buck. 

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

That time she dressed up as Hitler

Roseanne Barr built her comedy career on pushing the envelope, but she pushed it a bit too far in a 2009 photo shoot for the now-defunct Heeb Magazine. In those photos, Barr was costumed as infamous Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, replete with mini-moustache and swastika armband, holding a tray of fresh-from-the-oven gingerbread men. "She nails the Fuehrer's facial expressions with twisted glee," noted writer Oliver Noble in the text accompanying the photos, describing Barr — who is herself Jewish — as she takes "the burnt gingerbread 'Jew Cookies' out of the oven."

Predictably, the photos caused outrage, particularly with former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly (who would go on to become the source of much scandal himself a few years later). "Apparently, she is mocking the Holocaust," O'Reilly solemnly told viewers.

While Heeb publisher Joshua Neuman attempted to defend the photos ("For better or worse, hasn't the Holocaust itself been domesticated?" he wrote), Barr subsequently appeared on "The Green Room with Paul Provenza" and offered her own take on the backlash. "Oh my god, you don't wanna piss off Jews," she said. "Even if you're a Jew, don't piss off Jews."

Her attention-seeking run for president

Let it never be said that Roseanne Barr has not been ahead of the curve. Back in 2012, she launched a bid to become president of the United States — a full four years before it became clear that a celebrity television star could actually be a viable presidential candidate. As Entertainment Weekly reported, Barr announced her candidacy during an appearance on "The Tonight Show." "I'm totally serious," she insisted to host Jay Leno, who asked if she'd be running as a Republican or a Democrat. "I'm not for either party because they both suck and they're both a bunch of criminals," she responded, revealing she was launching her own political party, "the Green Tea Party."

As a Vulture retrospective on the campaign pointed out, Barr wound up running initially as a Green Party candidate, and then for the newly-formed Peace and Freedom Party. 

While Barr never came close to winning, her political journey did form the basis for the 2015 documentary "Roseanne for President!" As a trailer for the doc made clear, Barr's platform was all over the place, running the gamut from legalizing marijuana to reinstating the guillotine as a form of capital punishment.

She claimed Marie Osmond's son was gay after his suicide

In 2010, The Hollywood Reporter shared the tragic news that Michael Blosil, the 18-year-old son of singer and TV host Marie Osmond, took his own life. Years later, Osmond opened up about her son's death while she was a co-host on daytime series "The Talk," with USA Today reporting she revealed her son had been "bullied heavily" prior to his death, and experienced severe depression associated with his longstanding issues with substance abuse. 

The agony that Osmond went through coping with her son's suicide wasn't made any easier when Roseanne Barr shared her thoughts in a blog post. While Barr's post has since been deleted, the Proud Parenting website shared some excerpts of the post, as well as its title, "Marie Osmond's Poor Gay Son Killed Himself."

Despite Osmond's declaration that "My son was not gay," Barr claimed that the clash between his alleged homosexuality and his Mormon faith was to blame for his suicide. In Barr's opinion, she wrote, Blosil ended his life "because he had been told how wrong and how sick he was every day of his life by his church and the people in it. Calling that 'depression' is a lie!"

She was sued after tweeting George Zimmerman's family's address

Roseanne Barr found herself targeted with a lawsuit when she weighed in on social media about the shooting of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. That, reported CNN, was because she tweeted the home address of Zimmerman's parents. "If Zimmerman isn't arrested I'll rt his address again — maybe go 2 his house myself," she wrote in one of those tweets.

As a result, the couple sued Barr for the "intentional infliction of emotional distress" her tweets allegedly caused them. According to the suit, Robert and Gladys Zimmerman described her tweet as "an open and obvious call for vigilante justice," that they believed was intended "to cause a lynch mob to descend" on their home. 

When the case finally made it to court, the judge sided with Barr and threw the whole thing out of court. "This court finds there is no disputed issue of material fact and that the defendant, Roseanne Barr, is entitled to judgment as a matter of law," declared the judge, as reported by the Orlando Sentinel

She implied the survivor of a school shooting was a Nazi

Back in 2018, an armed 15-year-old took the lives of 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Several of the survivors of the horrific massacre were spurred into activism, calling for tougher gun-control legislature. Among those was Parkland student David Hogg, who lent his voice to the cause. 

Later that year, Hogg spoke at the "March For Our Lives" demonstration in Washington, D.C., concluding his remarks by raising his clenched fist in the air. Online, some of those who were opposed to Hogg's quest for tighter gun-control laws compared his gesture of defiance to a Nazi salute; urban legend-busting website Snopes, however, shot that conspiracy theory down entirely.

Yet that wasn't enough for Roseanne Barr, who apparently bought into the notion that Hogg was a Nazi when she tagged him in a tweet that added the all-caps message "NAZI SALUTE." Barr ultimately deleted her tweet, reported BuzzFeed News, and issued another claiming the image of Hogg she'd seen had been "doctored," and that "he was NOT giving the nazi salute!"

Roseanne Barr was an early adopter to QAnon

In the midst of the 2018 "Roseanne" revival, Roseanne Barr tweeted a bizarre claim that then-President Donald Trump was breaking up child sex-trafficking rings. "President Trump has freed so many children held in bondage to pimps all over this world. Hundreds each month. He has broken up trafficking rings in high places everywhere," wrote Barr via Twitter, as reported by the Daily Beast.

Of course, none of that was even remotely true, and Barr made her bizarre statement even more clear when she subsequently tweeted, "who is Q?" and then, "tell Qanon to DM me in the nexxt 24 hours."

As it turned out, Barr had taken a deep dive into QAnon, whose adherents believe Trump is devoted to bringing down an expansive cabal of blood-drinking pedophiles comprised of Democratic politicians, global elites and Hollywood stars. Unfortunately, Barr is far from the only person who's been taken in by the bonkers conspiracy theory — so pervasive has QAnon become that legitimate news service Reuters issued a "fact check" to counter a fake news story reporting that Tom Hanks had been executed by a military tribunal due to his alleged membership in the not-actually-real pedophile ring. 

An episode of the Roseanne revival was criticized as being Islamophobic

The original "Roseanne" developed a hard-earned reputation for delving into controversial subject matter, and that held true in the 2018 revival series. However, one episode in particular was accused of encouraging anti-Muslim sentiment, in which a Muslim family moves in next door to Dan and Roseanne Conner (John Goodman and Roseanne Barr). 

As Insider reported, the episode — titled "Go Cubs" — found Barr's character suspicious that her neighbors were terrorists. Along with worrying that "the crazy amount of fertilizer they got stacked up near their garage" would be used to make explosives, she feared the family was actually "a sleeper cell full of terrorists getting ready to blow up our neighborhood." 

The episode was hit with backlash on social media. Among those offering criticism was Muslim-American writer and editor Elham Khatami. "This is tired," Khatami wrote in a since-deleted tweet. "Roseanne thinking her Muslim neighbors are terrorists isn't funny. Not even for a second. Muslims deal with that bigotry on a daily basis. And it's dangerous" (via Insider). Barr took to Twitter to defend the episode, insisting her show tackled "real issues and real people," and vowed to "challenge every sacred cow in USA."

The racist tweet that cratered her career

Anyone having read this far should be clear that Roseanne Barr has been no stranger to controversy throughout her decades-long showbiz career. As the Washington Post reported, however, she crossed a line when she issued a tweet (that she later deleted) describing former Obama administration adviser Valerie Jarrett as the offspring of the Muslim Brotherhood & "Planet of the Apes." Barr's tweet was immediately decried as racist — even by her own TV daughter, with "Roseanne" co-star Sara Gilbert responding vociferously via Twitter to deride Barr's comments as "abhorrent."

Barr's first instinct was to balk at being called a racist, which she did by tweeting, "Muslims r NOT a race." Within hours of Barr's tweet, then-ABC president Channing Dungey — who, like Jarrett, is African American — had taken decisive action. "Roseanne's Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show," Dungey said in a statement

Too little and too late, Barr tweeted a mea culpa. "I apologize to Valerie Jarrett and to all Americans. I am truly sorry for making a bad joke about her politics and her looks," she wrote, via Entertainment Tonight, admitting her "joke was in bad taste."

Her apology for her racist tweet was not well received

From comeback queen to cancellation after a single tweet, Roseanne Barr emerged two months later to attempt some damage control on Fox News' "Hannity." "Well, I've apologized a lot. It's been two months," she said. "I feel like I have apologized and explained and asked for forgiveness and made recompense." Admitting she felt "so sad that people felt [the tweet] was racist," she added, "I made a mistake, obviously. It cost me everything, my life's work, everything. I made a mistake and I paid a price for it." 

Host Sean Hannity then encouraged Barr to apologize directly to Jarrett. "I am so sorry that you thought I was racist and that you thought that my tweet was racist, because it wasn't. It was political," Barr said. She continued by offering her apologies that Jarrett felt "harmed and hurt," insisting she never meant to say anything that would be taken as negatively directed at "an entire race of people."

However, Barr couldn't resist sneaking in a shot at Jarrett in the midst of all that apologizing, quipping, "I'd tell her she's got to get a new haircut."

Roseanne Barr blamed TV daughter Sara Gilbert for her downfall

While Roseanne Barr's infamous tweet led to the cancellation of "Roseanne," that wasn't the end of the sitcom family she brought to television all those years before. Less than a month after axing "Roseanne," reported Variety, ABC announced plans for a Barr-free spinoff, "The Conners." 

As ABC made crystal clear, Barr had "no financial or creative involvement in the new series," which was being produced by Barr's former co-star Sara Gilbert, aka youngest Conner daughter Darlene. However, reported Reuters, the debut of "The Conners" featured one more indignity for Barr when it was revealed her character had died of an opioid overdose. Barr issued a statement complaining that the manner of her character's death, claiming it "lent an unnecessary grim and morbid dimension to an otherwise happy family show."

In March 2019, Barr spoke to the Washington Post to place the blame for her downfall squarely on Gilbert for ABC's decision to cancel the show. "She destroyed the show and my life with that tweet," Barr said of Gilbert's Twitter condemnation, throwing in a "Silence of the Lambs" reference by adding, "She will never get enough until she consumes my liver with a fine Chianti."