Who Is Channing Dungey? A Primer on the ABC Exec Who Axed ‘Roseanne’
Another day, another racist tweet from comedian Roseanne Barr — but today was different. Following her latest offensive comment on social media —this time directed at former Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett — the star and creator of Roseanne apologized and vowed to leave Twitter. While most folks assumed that this, like so many of Barr’s other “jokes,” would go ignored by ABC, network executive Channing Dungey surprised everyone when she announced the cancellation of the recently-revived hit sitcom. For most viewers, today was probably the first time they heard (or read) the name of ABC’s history-making president of entertainment. Here’s what you need to know.
In a formal statement released this afternoon, Dungey announced that the network has officially canceled Roseanne:
Roseanne's Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show.
The “Twitter statement” in question refers to a now-deleted tweet, in which Barr compared Valerie Jarrett, former senior adviser to Barack Obama, to the product of a Planet of the Apes character and the “Muslim brotherhood.” Barr’s tweet immediately received backlash for its blatantly racist language (Jarrett is black), leading the comedian to delete it and apologize for “making a bad joke.”
Dungey’s subsequent announcement of Roseanne’s cancellation is significant for a few reasons, not the least of which is that Dungey made history in 2016 when she became the first black president of ABC Entertainment Group — which also made her the first black president of a major broadcast TV network.
The Sacramento native previously worked for Warner Bros., where she helped develop hit films like The Matrix and Heat. Dungey joined ABC in 2004, where she became the network’s head of drama and oversaw development of successful TV shows like Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder and Once Upon a Time. In 2016, Dungey was promoted to president of entertainment, and it’s under her stewardship that Roseanne was revived and, despite (or perhaps in part because of) some of its controversial plot points, became a major ratings hit for the network, which renewed it for a second season.
But Barr’s history of using Twitter to endorse Donald Trump, promote dangerous conspiracy theories and make offensive, racist comments was bound to catch up with her. In the hours leading up to the cancellation, fellow comedian Wanda Sykes announced that she was stepping down from her position as consulting producer on Roseanne because of Barr’s racist comments about Ms. Jarrett. (Comedian and Roseanne showrunner Whitney Cummings resigned earlier this month.)
Though it’s heartening to see the family-oriented (and Disney-owned) ABC take action against racism, the fact that Roseanne was revived at all remains somewhat mystifying given Barr’s reputation for tweeting bigoted comments and espousing conspiracy theories rooted in dangerous socio-political ideologies. Are ABC executives really that surprised that a person who is well-known for making racist statements made a racist statement? Why was this their breaking point?