On Tuesday, a clip of the supposedly canceled (but still talking!) comedian Roseanne Barr apparently denying the Holocaust circulated widely on Twitter. “And, that is the truth. And, nobody died in the Holocaust either. That’s the truth. It should happen. Six million Jews should die right now cause they cause all the problems in the world. But, it never happened,” Barr says in the video pulled from her appearance on comedian Theo Von’s podcast, This Past Weekend. Their chat was uploaded nearly two weeks ago.
In a 16-second bite, it does seem...I don’t want to say “shocking,” because nothing that comes out of a shock jock’s mouth can truly qualify as shocking...but it’s fucked up! Holocaust denialism is a cornerstone of antisemitism, obviously. And though Barr is Jewish and has never made that a secret, she also clearly craves attention through often offensive attempts at comedy, so it’s understandable that people who saw the clip immediately clutched their pearls and clenched their fists (and then the strands broke and all the pearls fell to the floor and then they got even more angry).
Well, Barr’s son, Jake Pentland, has now clarified to TMZ that the circulating clip of his mother was taken out of context. She was being sarcastic, he explained. “We are embarrassed that people are stupid enough not to recognize Roseanne is being sarcastic,” Pentland told TMZ. “We think it’s funny that people are so stupid. Let’s stop doing this clickbait shit, we need to focus on big problems in America. Focusing on out-of-context clips is what morons do.”
Von echoed this sentiment on Twitter.
The thing is—and it makes me a little bit queasy to find myself on this side of this conversation—Pentland is actually 100 percent correct, here. The full context of the statement makes it clear that Barr is being sarcastic, though coming from the twisty mind of Barr as it does, her sarcasm is based on conspiratorial thinking, wrong data, and a fundamental misunderstanding of math.
To start, here’s a longer version of the clip:
In it, Barr proclaims comics as “the last free-speech art form,” adding that, “as long as we’re performing, things ain’t as bad as they could be.” She claims that nobody wants to hear the truth and then perpetuates a lie that is, naturally, a right-wing talking point, like so many of the jokes were in her Fox Nation standup special, Roseanne Barr: Cancel This, from earlier this year.
To Von, Barr claims that in the 2020 election, Biden won 81 million votes by winning just 36 counties (out of the 3,000+ counties in the U.S.). She then claims, “They mandated that as the truth and then nobody could say, ‘What about…?’” In case you’re wondering if Barr slipped and meant to say that Biden won 538 counties (which is still only about 17 percent), she repeated the 38 figure again and again. This manufactured counties discrepancy was something Trump brought up at a campaign speech in April in Florida. It’s also been a thing people on the right have been saying ever since Trump lost the election— and not only have they been allowed to say it, but multiple outlets have done them the favor of debunking the suspected discrepancy repeatedly, in case they didn’t want to be wrong anymore (USA Today, AP, and Brookings, among them). Biden was able to win the popular election with a minority of county wins because populations vary by county and, per Brookings, the counties Biden won in are overall more populated than those that Trump did. Also, the votes Biden received in the counties he did not win in still counted toward his popular-vote tally, which is what Barr is referencing in the 81 million figure.
But Barr went on: “The election was not rigged,” she said with misguided sarcasm. “Thirty-six counties can give you 81 million votes. That’s a fact. …Thirty-six counties have 81 million people in them. See? That’s the truth, and don’t you dare say anything against it or else you’ll be off YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and all the other ones, because there’s such a thing as the truth and facts and we have to stick to it.” Those were the words she said right before her Holocaust comments, which were clearly intended as an extension of how ridiculous the election data was, per her false reporting and misinterpretation.
So Pentland’s words actually are useful to all who saw what was indeed a clip taken out of context. Of course, if his mother’s jokes were better, as in funny at all, or based on remotely true premises, they wouldn’t need explanations in the first place.