A&E’s Duck Dynasty headache might not be over: Fox News Channel officially announced it will ring in 2014 with Willie and Korie Robertson during its All-American New Year special, which starts at 9 PM Eastern on Tuesday. Appearing live via satellite from Steamboat Springs, CO, for their first television appearance following A&E‘s reinstatement of Phil Robertson on the hit reality series, his son and daughter-in-law will discuss the situation with FNC’s Bill Hemmer and Elisabeth Hasselbeck. The couple also will reflect on 2013 and discuss the year ahead, FNC promised. (Hasselbeck, you’ll recall, visited the Robertson’s home and Duck Call center in Louisiana, with Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade, when she made her debut on Fox & Friends).
FNC on-air talent were among those blasting A&E over its decision to put Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson on hiatus indefinitely, owing to comments he made about homosexuality in a GQ interview. Sean Hannity gave out A&E exec phone numbers on his radio show; FNC contributor Sarah Palin took to social media to voice her support for Phil Robertson, saying that his suspension is an attack on free speech. “Free speech is an endangered species,” she wrote on Facebook. “Those ‘intolerants’ hatin’ and taking on the Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing his personal opinion are taking on all of us.”
Last Friday, A&E announced — nine days after putting Phil on hiatus from a show that was itself on hiatus until January 15 and that had 9 of the next batch of 10 episodes in the can, all featuring Phil — that his suspension was over and he would be part of the show’s filming when it resumed in the spring. A&E said it had decided to end Robertson’s hiatus after discussions with the his family, as well as consulting with numerous advocacy groups. The suspension had set off a firestorm, including a statement issued by the rest of the Robertson family in which they indicated they would not work on the show without Phil, an IStandWithPhil petition that snagged quarter of a million signatures, and a Five Things A&E Did Wrong debate among among TV industry execs at holiday get-togethers. Meanwhile, cable news network execs gave thanks for the cultural warfare that had erupted, during this traditionally slow news period, over A&E’s decision to spank Phil for comparing homosexuality to bestiality in the GQ interview even Phil’s family acknowledged was “coarse.”
In its statement that Phil was out of the Hollywood hoosegow, A&E explained that it made the decision because he and his family had publicly stated they regretted the “coarse language” he used, and the “mis-interpretation of his core beliefs based only on the article,” adding that Phil had “also made it clear he would ‘never incite or encourage hate’.”
“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,” A&E continued. “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. So 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.”
Meanwhile, the creator of the IStandWithPhil campaign/petition wants to know which advocacy groups A&E had met with, and GLAAD — which reportedly was among them — didn’t seem any too happy with the network’s decision, saying in a 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.”
It was not surprising that A&E would declare victory while it was behind (industry pundits correctly forecast to Deadline that the network would do so a day or two after Christmas), after being so out-maneuvered in the media by the Robertson family. In a Christmas day stunt, the extremely press-savvy Phil decided to illustrate one of his comments to GQ, reiterated in a subsequent Daily Mail report, that “If you’re a man, find yourself a woman. Marry them and keep your sex right there…Common sense says we are not going to procreate the human race unless we have a man and a woman. From the beginning Jesus said, ‘It is a man and a woman.’” In a photo tweeted Christmas Day by his granddaughter, Phil is seen pointing to an apparently new wedding ring on the finger of his wife, Miss Kay, with the caption: “After 50 years of marriage Papaw Phil finally gave Mamaw Kay a wedding ring for Christmas ??”