Roseanne: It was the Ambien talking, not me; Ambien maker: It was you

Did a sleeping pill force Roseanne Barr to become un-woke? Despite a pledge yesterday to leave Twitter, the now-fired ABC star used the social-media platform to explain away a series of bizarre and racist tweets yesterday on side effects of Ambien. She also urged her supporters not to defend her remarks, but then spent the next few hours retweeting those defenses:


Comedian Roseanne Barr blamed sleeping pills for the racist tweet that led to her show Roseanne‘s cancellation — then deleted a tweet that included the claim.

Barr posted a series of tweets regarding the controversy late Tuesday and early Wednesday. In one, she wrote that she had been “ambien tweeting” when she posted the offensive message, referring to the sleep aid. In a separate tweet, she added that she was, “Not giving excuses for what I did (tweeted) but I’ve done weird stuff while on ambien.” Both messages have since been deleted.

This prompted one Twitter observer to propose a new side-effect warning for the popular prescription sleep aid:

Sleeping pills occasionally do produce unusual behavior, but … how unusual is it for Roseanne to engage in odd and controversial statements and antics? CNN’s Brian Stelter recalls a few past episodes, arguing that “ABC knew it was playing with fire” by hiring Barr in the first place, especially with her track record on Twitter. The CNN panel also points out that Barr’s retweets seem to conflict with her expressions of abject apology:


The problem with blaming Ambien is that this is hardly a one-off. I’m not sure today that a tweet like Barr wrote about Valerie Jarrett would ever get forgiven in the immediate aftermath of the controversy, but it might help if it was seen as shockingly out of character. That’s not the case with Barr, who has made a career of provocative statements and antics in the worst of taste, including dressing up like Hitler as a commentary on Holocaust remembrance. Some of it can be chalked up to pushing the limits on comedy — the notorious national-anthem performance in 1990 certainly can be — but some of it is just plain bizarre, such as her child-abuse allegations and retraction, which Barr also attributed to medication issues.

All of that was well known to network execs, and to her co-stars as well, who proclaimed themselves shocked over Barr’s latest rants. Barr took aim at them in response:

Barr also criticized her co-stars overnight, including Michael Fishman, who played her youngest child, D.J., on her hit show “Roseanne” and its revival, for speaking out against her.

Fishman tweeted that he felt “devastated” by Barr’s words, especially given the fact that the staff of “Roseanne” had been so dedicated to storylines that strived for inclusiveness.

In response, Barr shot back: “i created the platform for that inclusivity and you know it. ME. You throw me under the bus. nice!”

She also furiously called out fellow co-star Sara Gilbert, who played another one of her children, for expressing her disappointment.

“Wow! unreal,” Barr replied.


Barr needs to take some time off — from Twitter, and from the spotlight — to regain her perspective and think through how to redeem herself. Her fans and defenders on the Right need some time off to gain perspective, too, especially about the impulse to affiliate themselves so completely with people whose track records are lit up with warning lights. Or at least take an Ambien and sleep on it overnight.

Addendum: Ambien’s manufacturer has updated their disclosures:

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