Ambien maker to Roseanne Barr: "Racism is not a known side effect"

(CBSNews) -- Roseanne Barr says the sleeping pill Ambien played a role in the racist tweet she sent about Valerie Jarrett, a former senior adviser in the Obama White House, which led ABC to cancel her TV show. "It was 2 in the morning and I was ambien tweeting," Barr said in a late-night tweet, adding that her comment was "egregious" and "indefensible."

The maker of Ambien, Sanofi-Aventis, took issue with that rationale.

"People of all races, religions and nationalities work at Sanofi every day to improve the lives of people around the world," the company said in a statement. "While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication."

Like all medications, sleep aids like Ambien can come with side effects. According to the drug's label, common ones include headaches, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting.

Sanofi-Aventis also includes a warning that "abnormal thinking and behavioral changes" have been reported in patients treated with Ambien. These side effects can include aggressiveness, agitation, and hallucinations. In rare instances, people have reported performing activities, such as driving a car, preparing and eating food, and having sex while not fully awake and not remembering these events later on. The company warns consumers should stop taking Ambien if they have such episodes.

"It can rarely be determined with certainty whether a particular instance of the abnormal behaviors listed above is drug induced, spontaneous in origin, or a result of an underlying psychiatric or physical disorder," the company says.

Timothy B. Sullivan, M.D., associate chairman of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Staten Island University Hospital in New York, said that despite these possible side effects, Ambien is a "largely safe" drug.

"Ambien, the brand version of zolpidem, is used by millions of people to assist with sleep onset," he told CBS News. "In an initial review of the literature I can find no scientific reports of disinhibition caused by zolpidem (Ambien). Sleepwalking and related disturbed sleep-wake states may produce automatic, stereotyped and at times atypical behavior. None of these traits appear to be relevant to the behavior Ms. Barr has expressed."

Barr later said she was not putting blame on the sleep aid for her racist comment.

On Wednesday morning in response to a critic she tweeted: "Yes, I have had odd ambien experiences on tweeting late at night-like many other ppl do. I BLAME MYSELF OK? It's just an explanation not an excuse."

ABC Entertainment's president Channing Dungey announced on Tuesday that the network decided to cancel the "Roseanne" reboot following Barr's tweet comparing Jarrett to an ape.

Barr's tweet about Jarrett said, "muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj."  Dungey called that comment "abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values."

Robert Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, which owns ABC, backed up Dungey's decision to cancel the top-rated show, saying "There was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing."

After initially pushing back against criticism of the comment about Jarrett, Barr admitted her "joke" was in "bad taste," and she apologized to Jarrett.

At a town hall event on MSNBC Tuesday night, Jarrett said she's doing fine and hopes people will learn from the whole incident.

"I think we have to turn it into a teaching moment," Jarrett said.


(CBSNews) -- After a racist tweet left Roseanne Barr without a job, the comedian apologized and told fans not to feel sorry for her or defend her "unforgiveable" comment. But early Wednesday, after a barrage of online criticism, Barr expressed empathy for someone else: President Trump.

She tweeted: "i feel bad for @POTUS-he goes thru this every single day." 

Tuesday night, after re-tweeting several bizarre posts from fans who came to her defense, Barr tweeted "I did something unforgiveable so do not defend me. It was 2 in the morning and I was ambien tweeting-it was memorial day too-i went 2 far & do not want it defended-it was egregious Indefensible. I made a mistake I wish I hadn't but...don't defend it please."

In the time it took to compose a 53-character tweet, Barr went from a hero that ABC was banking upon to unemployed.

The network canceled its hit reboot of "Roseanne" Tuesday after Barr's racist tweet that referred to Valerie Jarrett, an adviser to former President Barack Obama, as a cross between the Muslim Brotherhood and the "Planet of the Apes." Her agent dropped her, and other services pulled "Roseanne" reruns.

The swift developments rendered Mr. Trump at least temporarily mum.

Trump, who reveled in the success of "Roseanne" after Barr's character in the show came out as a supporter of his presidency, made no mention of the firing in a campaign-style rally in Tennessee on Tuesday evening.

"We have a lot bigger things going on in the country right now, certainly, that the president is spending his time on," said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Jarrett, a black woman who said she was "fine" after the slur, urged in an MSNBC special Tuesday about racism that the incident become a teaching moment. She said that Robert Iger, chief executive of ABC parent Walt Disney Co., called to apologize and told her before it became public that the show was being canceled.

"Tone does start at the top, and we like to look up to our president and feel as though he reflects the values of our country," Jarrett said. "But I also think that every individual citizen has a responsibility too, and it's up to all of us to push back. Our government is only going to be as good as we make it be."

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