As Roseanne Barr’s brand-reclamation tour continued Thursday with a live appearance on the Rabbi Shmuley Podcast in New York, the controversial actress and comedienne made awkward if well-intentioned mention of her adopted Hawaiian home.
Barr, who lives in Honokaa on Hawaii island, had earlier in the day appeared on Fox’s “The Sean Hannity Show” to address the backlash she faced to her May 29 tweet in which she said of former Barack Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, who is African-American: “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby = vj.”
In the aftermath of the tweet, which many viewed as racist, ABC canceled the recently revived “Roseanne,” which at the time was the No. 3-rated show on TV.
On Thursday’s live podcast from the Manhattan club Stand Up NY, host Rabbi Shmuel “Shmuley” Boteach thanked Barr for coming in from the West Coast. Barr corrected him, saying she actually came “all the way from the kingdom of Hawaii.”
She then encouraged Boteach to learn more about the “incredible history” of Hawaii and, in apparent reference to Queen Liliuokalani, shared with him her admiration for “Lili-ula-ola-kalani,” whom she explained “went to prison for her people … she went willingly because she didn’t want her people to be exterminated and murdered.”
(Barr was in the ballpark. Liliuokalani was deposed in a coup staged by American businessmen and supported by the American minister to Hawaii and a contingent of U.S. Marines. She is credited with surrendering in order to preserve the lives of her supporters. Following a subsequent rebellion aimed at restoring her to power, she was charged with treason and sentenced to eight months of house arrest in the upstairs bedroom of Iolani Palace.)
Later in the podcast, Barr referenced Hawaii again in a discussion of the backlash to her tweet and the degree to which she now feels forgiven.
“I was afraid to go out … when you’re called a racist and you live on an island full of brown people, it’s kind of terrifying — I live in Hawaii,” Barr said.
National media outlets seized on the seemingly tone-deaf characterization of Hawaii’s multicultural population. Yet, in context, the comment appeared to reference her expectation of how she might be treated. Without mentioning Hawaii by name, she immediately followed that remark with a description of the support she had received.
“Everybody hated me but never before in my career of 30-something years have I felt the love and support of people on the street than I do now,” she said. “When I did go out it was like Rumpelstiltskin or some (expletive). I expected everyone to hate me and everyone just gave me so much love wherever I went. I was like, ‘Oh, this is amazing’ and it was very healing. People of all colors go, ‘Man I don’t know what this means’ and ‘It’s not right.’”