In an emotional and tearful recorded interview largely focused on Jewish and Torah values, Roseanne Barr expressed deep remorse and regret for tweeting against former Obama administration adviser Valerie Jarrett. The tweet led ABC to cancel its hit revival of her sitcom Roseanne. Barr spoke exclusively with Jerusalem Post columnist Shmuley Boteach.
“I’m a lot of things, a loud mouth and all that stuff. But I’m not stupid for God’s sake. I never would have wittingly call any black person and say they are a monkey. I just wouldn’t do that,” Barr told Boteach. “I didn’t do that. And people think that I did that and it just kills me. I didn’t do that. And if they do think that, I’m just so sorry that I was so unclear and stupid. I’m very sorry…I have loved ones who are African American, and I just can’t stand it.
Boteach and Barr have known each other for nearly two decades and the conversation – parts of the transcript can be read below – was held in recent weeks.
Barr told Boteach that she recognized her mistake and was not looking to make any excuses for what she did. “I don’t excuse it. I horribly regret it,” she said. “I lost everything, and I regretted it before I lost everything. And I said to God, ‘I am willing to accept whatever consequences this brings because I know I’ve done wrong. I’m going to accept what the consequences are, and I do, and I have. But they don’t ever stop. They don’t accept my apology, or explanation. And I’ve made myself a hate magnet. And as a Jew, it’s just horrible. It’s horrible.”
Barr said that she had thought Jarett was a white woman when she tweeted about her.
“Valerie Jarrett, I don’t agree with her politics and I thought she was white, I did not know she was a black woman. When ABC called me and said what is the reason for your egregious racism, I said, “Oh my God, it is a form of racism. I guess I didn’t know she was black, and I’ll cop to it, but I thought she was white,” Barr said.
“I ask people if you look at my tweet don’t defend me. I’ve done something egregious and I don’t want to be defended. I don’t want to get anymore racism going from what I did, I don’t want that. I don’t want to be defended,” she said later.
Drawing on Maimonides’s three stages of teshuva – Hebrew for repentance - Barr said that her apology was not just about repentance but also included deep remorse.
“The point is to feel remorse in your heart because that’s what unplugs your heart. You have to feel remorse, not just repentance. That’s just a step towards feeling remorse. And when you feel remorse you have to follow it with recompense,” she said. “You have to take an action in the world, whether it’s through money or other things, to correct your sin. After your heart is unfrozen and after it stops being broken from the pain you caused others, you stop being a robot and you gotta' come back to God. So it’s remorse, and I definitely feel remorse.”
In the interview, Barr revealed that she had tried to obtain Jarrett’s phone number to personally call her and apologize. She also said that before ABC hired her she told them that she would not stop defending Israel, despite the controversy her positions might cause.
“I went to her twitter page and I said ‘Please forgive me. I have done something horrible and I apologize to you, and I ask for your forgiveness.’ And you know, I tried to get her phone number because even though I don’t agree with her, even when we really disagree with someone because they’re hurting us and our families - we still have to treat them with human dignity. And that’s what I wanted to apologize to her for. Because you know, even though I didn’t have that in my head it came out that way.
"Sometimes you just say the wrong words and I should have known better. I shouldn’t have done it. I wish to hell I wouldn’t have done it or be more clear with a few letters. I should have been better, and I wasn’t. And I caused a lot of pain. I know that, and that’s the worse feeling in the world. I caused pain for my family, I caused pain for my mother, I caused pain to the two hundred out-of-work actors that I loved. And the crew and writers.
"I feel so bad that they gave me another chance and I blew it. But I did it. And what can I do now except say of course, I’m not a racist, I’m an idiot. And I might have done something that comes across as bigoted and ignorant and I know that’s how it came across. And you know, I asked for forgiveness cause I do love all people, I really do,” Barr said.
Below are select transcripts from the interview: Boteach
: I know your values system. I know what you believe. So the first thing I wanted to address is knowing that you love the Torah, and the Torah is clear. The very first chapter of Genesis says emphatically that every human being is created equally in the image of God, Jew and non-Jew alike.Barr
: There were no Jews when God created Adam and Eve. They were the parents of all mankind, black white.Barr
: That’s right.Boteach
: Every shade in betweenBarr
: I always say our ancestors go back way before the Jews.Boteach
: Correct. To Adam and Eve, and the Garden of Eden.Barr
: Who are created in the image of God. Which means every human being regardless of nationality, ethnicity, belief system is equally God’s childBarr
: Right, you know what it says in the reading today. I love this so much it says, “We are all, all of us, all of mankind and humanity, we are from the same embryo. I just love that. And that’s why we look at our fingernails…Boteach
: On Saturday night at the end of Shabbat at the Havdalah service… Go on, please, we look at our fingernails...Barr
: Because it reminds us of when we were in an embryonic state before we became of matter. We were just spiritual and we were all connected. There was only one soul.Boteach
: That’s beautiful.Barr
: That’s why we do it.Boteach
: You’re teaching a Rabbi.Barr
: Well I told you Shmuley. I’ve been teaching Torah for twenty five years, and I teach it to a small select group and a lot of them are Rabbis that I study with. Anyway, I’m just joyous that’s part of the joy of community and you know sisterhood and you know oneness and it’s just great to celebrate that with other people of like mind and shared values. I like doing it with everybody. I teach everybody that wants to know. Ya know?Boteach
: So how did it happen? You don’t believe that. You don’t believe that any human beings are less than anyone else. And you speak constantly about the Torah that has influenced the whole world. That is the only source for the belief that all people are equal. Because they are created equal in the image of God, every single one of them. That’s why Martin Luther King quoted the Torah, the Hebrew Bible, constantly. The greatest civil rights leader of all time used the Torah as the foundation of his liberation manifesto for humanity.Barr
: He’s my idol. He is my Idol.Boteach
: Okay, he’s the greatest American of the 20th century. I’ve said that constantly.. I’m glad that we share that. I try to memorize his speeches. So how do you, someone who looks at Martin Luther King as an idol and loves the Torah - and I know your heart - how did you write something that people feel is in complete contravention of that values system?Barr
: It’s really hard to say this but, I didn’t mean what they think I meant. And that’s what’s so painful. But I have to face that it hurt people. When you hurt people even unwillingly there’s no excuse. I don’t want to run off and blather on with excuses. But I apologize to anyone who thought, or felt offended and who thought that I meant something that I in fact did not mean. It was my own ignorance, and there’s no excuse for that ignorance. But I didn’t mean it the way they’re saying I meant it. And that’s really weird too because if I don’t speak for myself, who will speak for me.Boteach
: As Hillel said, right?Barr
: And if I’m only for myself, then I’m one big jerk, but I’m paraphrasing. So I have to speak for myself too, and say what was in my mind, and what I meant and what I did. And I can’t let other people define me and project their stuff on to me. Now they’re just changing the words of what I said totally. So painful.Boteach
: Okay so I’m about to ask you, Roseanne, what you meant, but I’m going to ask you in the context of also our shared commitment, yours and mine shared commitment to the Torah’s ideas of repentance. What I love about Judaism is it’s holiest days are about being better and improving and repentance. And the great sage Maimonides, whom you and I both revere, gave stages as to how we are to repent and make right the pain we cause others.Barr
: Well it’s not just about repentance, repentance is like self-reflection. And then after repentance, remorse. The point is to feel remorse in your heart because that’s what unplugs your heart. You have to feel remorse, not just repentance. That’s just a step towards feeling remorse. And when you feel remorse you have to follow it with recompense. You have to take an action in the world, whether it’s through money or other things, to correct your sin. After your heart is unfrozen and after it stops being broken from the pain you caused others, you stop being a robot and you gotta' come back to God. So it’s remorse, and I definitely feel remorse. Boteach
: You see this? This is the eloquence on values I’ve always heard from you. That people don’t always get to hear from you Roseanne.Barr
: I have black children in my family. I can’t, I can’t let ‘em say these things about that, after thirty years of my putting my family and my health and my livelihood at risk to stand up for people. I’m a lot of things, a loud mouth and all that stuff. But I’m not stupid for God’s sake. I never would have wittingly call any black person and say they are a monkey. I just wouldn’t do that. I didn’t do that. And people think that I did that and it just kills me. (sobbing) I didn’t do that. And if they do think that, I’m just so sorry that I was so unclear and stupid. I’m very sorry. But I don’t think that and I would never do that. I have loved ones who are African American, and I just can’t stand it. I’ve made a huge error and I told ABC when they called me. They said, I gotta' get a hold of myself here, wait. I gotta get a hold of myself. Boteach
: Take your time.Barr
: They said, “What were you possibly thinking to say this egregious and unforgivable thing you said?” Now first of all I had already apologized and removed it by then cause it wasn’t up very long. You know sometimes you reread your tweets, especially memorial weekend at 2am on Ambien. And that’s no excuse, but that is what was real.Boteach
: It’s not an excuse because you and I both believe in the Torah’s definition of repentance where we don’t excuse bad behavior, right?Barr
: There’s no excuse I don’t excuse it. It’s an explanation. I was impaired you know.Boteach
: Right. But you still regret and don’t excuse what you wrote.Barr
: Of course, no I don’t excuse it. I horribly regret it. Are you kidding? I lost everything, and I regretted it before I lost everything. And I said to God, “I am willing to accept whatever consequences this brings because I know I’ve done wrong. I’m going to accept what the consequences are, and I do, and I have. But they don’t ever stop. They don’t accept my apology, or explanation. And I’ve made myself a hate magnet. And as a Jew, it’s just horrible. It’s horrible.Barr
: When ABC hired me they asked me to get off Twitter, cause I’m always saying things, right? And I told them, I promise I will get off twitter, they said cause you’ll shoot yourself in the foot if you’re on there, and my kids took it away from me, and the whole thing cause they said, “Mom, you have to stop.” I told ABC I have to tell you right now before we sign any papers that I will never stop defending Israel and the Jewish people. I cannot, if I were to do that, I would rather be dead, I can’t do that. So if you want to hire me know that. I will never stop.
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