Purveyors of fake news and satire jumped into action after ABC’s sudden 29 May 2018 cancellation of the reboot of the sitcom Roseanne in response to racist tweeting by the show’s titular star. Almost immediately, numerous fabricated stories appeared to claim that the sitcom had been picked up by other television networks and content platforms, and even that President Donald Trump had intervened.
In the hours and days following ABC’s announcement, fake news web site Daily World Update falsely reported that Netflix had commissioned a second season of ‘Roseanne’ “in record time.” In its article, Daily World Update falsely named the chief executive officer of Netflix as “Art Tubolls” and hyperlinked under that name to the Facebook page of “Busta Troll,” one of the many monikers and pseudonyms used by fake news producer Christopher Blair, who runs a network of sites that include Daily World Update:
(The CEO of Netflix is actually Reed Hastings. “Art Tubolls,” an anagram of “Busta Troll,” is a prank name that Blair uses repeatedly in his articles.)
Daily World Update subsequently reported that Netflix had withdrawn its interest in Roseanne after “a phone call from Barack Obama” (a fabrication.) The site then claimed (again, falsely) NBC had picked up the show. That article contained a fabricated quote from the CEO of NBC, whom Daily World Update named as — you guessed it — Art Tubolls:
On 30 May, Daily World Update completed a clean sweep of the major networks with false and contradictory articles claiming that both Fox and CBS had commissioned a second season of the Roseanne reboot. Both articles came with fabricated quotations from the CEO of Fox and the Programming Director of CBS — naming both men as Art Tubolls.
Details like these didn’t stop people from falling for this story and others like it. Just hours after ABC announced it was ditching ‘Roseanne,’ the “Women for Trump Movement II” Facebook page also claimed that Fox had picked up the sitcom in a post that was shared thousands of times in less than one day:
Although the post cited “reports,” Fox has not announced that they are poised to commission a new season of Roseanne, and no reputable news source has reported to that effect. However, fans of the show have been reportedly lobbying the network to do just that.
Earlier in May 2018, Fox announced they had picked up Last Man Standing, which stars conservative comedian Tim Allen, after ABC cancelled it a year earlier. However, Allen was not embroiled in a racism scandal (as Barr now is), and ABC’s entertainment president Channing Dungey cited “business and scheduling” as the reasons for the original decision to drop the sitcom.
In announcing that Fox would be providing a new home for Allen’s sitcom, Fox Television Group CEO Gary Newman expressed doubt that the comedian’s personal conservative politics played a role in ABC’s decision and, in an interview with the Washington Post, speculated that the rival network might have balked at persisting with a show produced by an outside studio (20th Century Fox) rather than a potentially more lucrative in-house alternative.
In a first for the US executive branch, a sitting President has ordered the cable channel C-SPAN to pick up a TV show cancelled by one of the major networks.
Saying he could not let this “fine fine show about American values” go off the air, President Trump ordered the channel to pick up the rebooted sitcom ‘Roseanne’, which had been abruptly dropped from the schedule by broadcast network ABC for some reason.
Breaking Burgh is clearly labelled as a “satirical blog” and the article is quite obviously not intended to be taken seriously, containing as it does a fabricated warning by Trump that he would launch airstrikes against C-SPAN if it did not comply with his order to commission a second series of the sitcom.
However, President Trump did eventually comment on the Roseanne‘s cancellation:
Bob Iger of ABC called Valerie Jarrett to let her know that “ABC does not tolerate comments like those” made by Roseanne Barr. Gee, he never called President Donald J. Trump to apologize for the HORRIBLE statements made and said about me on ABC. Maybe I just didn’t get the call?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 30, 2018