Phil Robertson will not be missing from Duck Dynasty after all.
A&E Networks announced Friday (27 December) that the patriarch of the popular reality show is no longer suspended after making anti-gay comments in an interview with GQ magazine.
‘Duck Dynasty is not a show about one man’s views. It resonates with a large audience because it is a show about family… a family that America has come to love,’ the network said in a lengthy statement. ‘As you might have seen in many episodes, they come together to reflect and pray for unity, tolerance and forgiveness.These are three values that we at A+E Networks also feel strongly about.’
About gays, Robertson had said in part: ‘Women with women, men with men, they committed indecent acts with one another, and they received in themselves the due penalty for their perversions. … Gays and lesbians are ‘full of murder, envy, strife, hatred. They are insolent, arrogant, God-haters. They are heartless, they are faithless, they are senseless, they are ruthless.’
He also made controversial comments about blacks: ‘I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, "I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues."
In its statement, A&E says its ‘core values are centered around creativity, inclusion and mutual respect.’
‘While Phil’s comments made in the interview reflect his personal views based on his own beliefs, and his own personal journey, he and his family have publicly stated they regret the “coarse language” he used and the mis-interpretation of his core beliefs based only on the article. He also made it clear he would “never incite or encourage hate.”’
The network had initially expressed ‘disappointment’ in Robertson’s comments and quickly distanced itself from him.
But fan protests were quick and loud with many defending Robertson’s right to free speech. Even former Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin got into the fray although she later admitted to defending Robertson without first having actually read what he had said.
‘After discussions with the Robertson family, as well as consulting with numerous advocacy groups, A&E has decided to resume filming Duck Dynasty later this spring with the entire Robertson family,’ the network states.
It will also be using this moment to launch a national public service campaign (PSA) promoting unity, tolerance and acceptance among all people.
Media watchdog and LGBT advocacy group GLAAD reacted to A&E’s reversal with this statement: ‘Phil Robertson should look African American and gay people in the eyes and hear about the hurtful impact of praising Jim Crow laws and comparing gay people to terrorists. If dialogue with Phil is not part of next steps then A&E has chosen profits over African American and gay people – especially its employees and viewers.’