The struggling ABC television network — mired in a distant fourth place — has been taking great pains to claim victory for the success of its “Roseanne” reboot, claiming that the ratings smash was the result of ABC’s strategic decision to program to Trump voters. But outside of “Roseanne,” ABC remains a fiercely anti-Trump network, and Jimmy Kimmel’s widely denounced attacks on Melania Trump’s foreign accent are just the latest reminder that ABC is no friend to middle America.
With the second episode of “Roseanne” raking in roughly 15 million viewers, ABC is sitting atop a ratings giant and being praised by fans for showcasing a conservative family dealing with the politically correct issues of the day.
“People gather round and they see themselves in this family,” Ben Sherwood, the president of the Disney ABC television group, recently told The New York Times. “It speaks to a large number of people in the country who don’t see themselves on television very often.”
However, despite what the network claims, those tuning in to anything but “Roseanne” on ABC will be hard pressed to find something that isn’t left-leaning or overtly anti-Trump.
Just one day before “Roseanne” debuted its second week, the network’s flagship late-night show host, Jimmy Kimmel, devoted a lengthy monologue to mocking first lady Melania Trump for her accent and lambasting her over the recent controversy surrounding the president and an alleged affair with adult-film star Stormy Daniels.
While Monday’s monologue hit a new low for Kimmel, he’s routinely used his platform on the network to skewer the Trump administration and its supporters. Kimmel was given a further platform for his liberal-leaning brand of humor as host of the 2018 Oscars, where he cracked jokes about the president and his supporters to a room full of mostly liberal Hollywood elite.
The late-night host isn’t the only anti-Trump star that ABC has hitched its wagon to in recent months. On the news side of things, it was previously reported that the network shells out roughly $15 million per year for petite former Clinton White House aide George Stephanopoulos to awkwardly host “Good Morning America” — despite serious questions about whether he's worth the enormous salary. With the Clintons out of power and “Good Morning America” mired in second place, it’s unclear why Disney is paying Stephanopoulos so much when he can no longer offer access to the West Wing and when, by most estimations, he is not a gifted television host.
The network recently debuted its troubled and hugely expensive revival of “American Idol,” putting Katy Perry, who was previously a vocal Hillary Clinton supporter, at the forefront of the judges' panel. Also rounding out the table are Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie. The network also plays home to dramas like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal” and “How to Get Away With Murder,” each of which are helmed by fiercely anti-Trump activist Shonda Rhimes.
Last year, in a roundtable discussion with TV writers for The New York Times, she made comments about those who feel the 2016 election was a wakeup call to TV creators to showcase more stories that appeal to parts of the country that typically skew right.
“I get really offended at the concept that what came out of the election was that — how do I say this? — impoverished people who are not of color needed more attention. I thought that was kind of crazy, that they might need more television,” she said. “They have television. [Laughter] It just felt very strange to me. And I thought really, the people who really need to be spoken to are the 50 percent of the population that did not vote at all. Those are the people who need to be more engaged.”
Not only are Rhimes’ comments the antithesis of the supposed “heartland strategy” that the network claimed it employed in reviving “Roseanne,” they’re not necessarily indicative of the way American viewers see the current crop of network programming.
Fans were outraged at ABC in 2016 when it canceled the highly popular show “Last Man Standing.” The series was a top performer for the network, second in ratings only to “Modern Family.” Tim Allen, a conservative himself, led the show as an outspoken right-leaning character. When it was given the abrupt boot from the network, many fans assumed it was a result of the network’s push toward more liberal fare.
With the success of “Roseanne” for its portrayal of conservative values on television, many fans have clamored for a “Last Man Standing” reprieve. They've argued that not only can shows that appeal to conservative America be popular, but that there are precious few of them on the air, despite what Rhimes claimed.
The network has made strides in recent years to adopt shows that appeal to some of the most diverse corners of the United States with shows like “Black-ish” and “Fresh Off the Boat.” However, those series are hardly place that have accepted pro-Trump viewers; topics like the election results and immigration have been handled from a more liberal point of view.
Despite its efforts to appeal to a viewership that is typically ignored in mainstream media, ABC is hardly the go-to place for pro-Trump conservatives who want to see themselves reflected in their pop culture. However, if there’s one thing that the recent success of “Roseanne” has shown, it's that those days may change, regardless of a network’s politics.
Industry insiders say that Sherwood, the ABC boss, is in his final weeks or months on the job as he negotiates a face-saving exit after a tenure marked by poor ratings and a creative drought. Following Sherwood's exit, insiders tell Fox News they expect to see “a 100 percent change” in leadership at left-leaning ABC News, and perhaps the termination of Stephanopoulos, whose salary has drawn the ire of Disney executives. Sources tell Fox News that Stephanopoulos recently made ovations to liberal CBS News, which was interested in his services but unable to come near to matching his ABC compensation.