The deplorable late-night racist Twitter rampage that cost Roseanne Barr her show (I will not dignify it by providing a link) offers three great lessons in crisis response.
First, there is Roseanne herself. Put simply, she blew it. While her first response seemed apologetic, she did scapegoat the Ambien she allegedly took and engaged in hostile back-and-forths with members of the Roseanne cast and crew who took exception to her racist remarks.
That was Tuesday. On Wednesday, she was in full “conspiracy Roseanne” mode. She said she’d been “lynched.” She played the anti-Semitism card. She retweeted a theory that Michelle Obama was in touch with ABC about her and demanded her show be cancelled. She moved, in short order, from a half-hearted “I made a mistake” to “the world is picking on me.”
While she may feel supported, or even vindicated, in the short run, her best bet would have been to apologize, step away from her show for a while (don’t say you’re quitting, just not working on it for a while), get some desperately needed therapy, and never tweet about the Obama administration, Muslims, Hitler, or really anything else again (or at least have someone confiscate her phone at 8p every night).
ABC gets a passing grade here, but clearly not an A. The decision to cancel the show so quickly was the right one, and they are getting some deserved credit for it. However, they are also getting some deserved blame for bringing Roseanne, and Roseanne, back in the first place in light of her previous racist tweets, comments, and photos. The fable of the scorpion and the frog is painfully overused these days, but here it is apt. ABC knew who Barr was, they knew the risk of having a star who was that controversial (putting it nicely), and they went for the dollars. A good next step for ABC would be to guarantee the salaries of the crew of Roseanne so they do not face hardships because of her actions (I am pretty sure John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf, and Sara Gilbert will be fine).
The drug maker Sanofi wins the day. Faced with a celebrity blaming their product for her outburst, and seeing a raft of memes from comedians and others about what Ambien might do:
“We must build a world where everyone is treated with equal respect and opportunity, no matter their race, creed or sexual orientation.”
— David Duke tweeting on Ambien
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) May 30, 2018
the pharmaceutical giant produced one of the best tweets I’ve seen in any crisis response:
People of all races, religions and nationalities work at Sanofi every day to improve the lives of people around the world. While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication.
— Sanofi US (@SanofiUS) May 30, 2018