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Drugmaker slaps back after Roseanne blames Ambien for racist tweet

May 30, 2018

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Drugmaker Sanofi slapped back at comedian Roseanne Barr after she blamed the sleep aid Ambien for her tweet comparing a black Obama administration adviser to an ape, with the company saying “racism is not a known side effect” of its products.

The tweet led Walt Disney Co’s ABC network to cancel its hit revival of the “Roseanne” sitcom, whose popularity President Donald Trump has cited as evidence his supporters, who include Barr, want shows that speak to their concerns.

Barr sparked widespread anger, including at ABC, with a since-deleted tweet comparing Valerie Jarrett, an adviser to President Barack Obama, to an ape. Barr wrote that if the Islamist political movement “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby = vj.”

Late Tuesday and into Wednesday morning Barr called that message “unforgiveable.”

“It was 2 in the morning and I was Ambien tweeting-it was memorial day too-i went 2 far & do not want it defended-it was egregious Indefensible,” she wrote in a message that has since been deleted. “I made a mistake I wish I hadn’t but...don’t defend it please.”

Sanofi responded Wednesday morning.

“People of all races, religions and nationalities work at Sanofi every day to improve the lives of people around the world,” its U.S. arm said on Twitter. “While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication.”

In other tweets, Barr said that she was tired of “being attacked and belittled more than other comedians who have said worse” and asked for people not to boycott ABC, saying that the network has the right to “do what they wish.”

Barr, 65, then apologized “for making a bad joke” about Jarrett, who is black and was born in Iran to American parents.

“Don’t feel sorry for me, guys!!,” Barr said in a tweet late on Tuesday. “I just want to apologize to the hundreds of people, and wonderful writers (all liberal) and talented actors who lost their jobs on my show due to my stupid tweet.”

Jarrett, 61, said on Tuesday that Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger called her before ABC announced the show’s cancellation.

Hollywood talent agency ICM said in a statement on Tuesday it will no longer represent Barr. Several networks said they were removing reruns of her show. Hulu said episodes of the new show would no longer be available on its streaming service.

The original “Roseanne” ran from 1988 to 1997, featuring a blue-collar family, the Conners, with overweight parents struggling to get by. It was praised for its realistic portrayal of working-class life.

The current “Roseanne” was ABC’s biggest hit of the 2017-2018 season, drawing an average 18.7 million viewers, second only to CBS sitcom “The Big Bang Theory,” according to Nielsen data through May 20.

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