4TH UPDATE, 7:15 PM: The Robertson family is standing firmly behind its patriarch and is willing to pull the plug on the biggest reality show on television. In a strongly worded post on its DuckCommander.com website, the family reacted to A&E Network‘s decision yesterday to suspend Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson over his pointed comments about homosexuality and religion in a GQ profile. The Robertsons made it clear that Duck Dynasty would only continue if Phil is in it because “we cannot imagine the show going forward without our patriarch at the helm.”
We want to thank all of you for your prayers and support. The family has spent much time in prayer since learning of A&E’s decision. We want you to know that first and foremost we are a family rooted in our faith in God and our belief that the Bible is His word. While some of Phil’s unfiltered comments to the reporter were coarse, his beliefs are grounded in the teachings of the Bible. Phil is a Godly man who follows what the Bible says are the greatest commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Phil would never incite or encourage hate.We are disappointed that Phil has been placed on hiatus for expressing his faith, which is his constitutionally protected right.We have had a successful working relationship with A&E but, as a family, we cannot imagine the show going forward without our patriarch at the helm. We are in discussions with A&E to see what that means for the future of Duck Dynasty. Again, thank you for your continued support of our family.
3RD UPDATE, 1:30 PM: Conservative special-interest groups wasted no time jumping on board A&E‘s Duck Dynasty disaster train. “Declaring God’s perspective on God’s design for human intimacy has now become a career-ending offense in America,” bemoaned the American Family Association — Donald Wildmon’s group, which puts out a journal that reviews the content of primetime TV shows, based on profanity, sex, violence, homosexuality, substance abuse, “anti-Christian” content, or “political correctness.” Meanwhile, the Parents Television Council took the opportunity to again lobby for a la carte network signup: “No matter your feeling on Mr. Robertson’s comments and A&E subsequent decision to suspend him, there is no doubt that millions of fans of the show are upset with A&E’s decision on this case,” PTC said. “Now imagine if those consumers had the ability to make a free market-based economic decision to no longer subscribe to A&E today. In a free market, consumers can ‘vote with their wallets’ rather than have to resort to postings on social media to make their feelings known. Conversely, in a free market, those who agree with A&E’s decision could actively seek out more of their programming and pay for it.”
2ND UPDATE, 9:40 AM: Duck Dynasty fan Sarah Palin has taken 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.” And Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal also added his voice. “Phil Robertson and his family are great citizens of the State of Louisiana. The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with. I don’t agree with quite a bit of stuff I read in magazine interviews or see on TV,” Jindal said in a statement reported on the Fox News website. “In fact, come to think of it, I find a good bit of it offensive. But I also acknowledge that this is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views. In fact, I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment. It is a messed up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended.”
UPDATE, WEDNESDAY PM: Here comes the backlash to the Duck Dynasty star’s anti-gay remarks published in GQ today. The Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT civil rights group in the U.S., is demanding an apology from Phil Robertson and for A+E Networks to denounce his comments. “These remarks go beyond being outlandishly inaccurate and offensive,” the group said in a long and detailed statement. “They are dangerous and revisionist, appealing to those in our society who wish to repeat patterns of discrimination. We urge A+E to immediately denounce and repudiate Robertson’s comments. Furthermore, we call on you to see that Phil Robertson apologizes for his vitriolic comments. Surely a brand like A+E does not want to be associated with such racist and homophobic remarks. Meanwhile, GLAAD, which had slammed Robertson’s remarks as “vile” earlier in the day, praised A&E for its swift action to suspend its star. “What’s clear is that such hateful anti-gay comments are unacceptable to fans, viewers, and networks alike,” the organization said in a statement. “By taking quick action and removing Robertson from future filming, A&E has sent a strong message that discrimination is neither a Christian nor an American value.”
PREVIOUS, WEDNESDAY, 4:55 PM: A+E Networks said that Phil Robertson has been put on an indefinite hiatus from his hit reality series for anti-gay remarks he made in the January issue of GQ magazine, which became available today. This comes as Season 5 of the series is set to debut January 15. We’re hearing that the show isn’t shooting right now, and there are episodes in the can that Robertson will be in. But he will not be a part of the production when filming resumes. “We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty”, the network group said in a statement just now. “His personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.”
This move is no small potatoes for A&E Network — the series’ Season 4 debut remains the No. 1-rated nonfiction series telecast in cable history with 11.8 million viewers. For A&E was its best-ever series telecast in adults 18-49 (6.3 million viewers) and adults 18-34 (3 million). It has spawned a couple of Christmas specials (the one last week drew 8.9 million viewers) and just landed its first major awards nomination this month, a PGA Awards nom for best reality series. The Louisiana family also secured big salary increases just before that record Season 4 premiere, with the clan reportedly earning more than $200,000 an episode — roughly 4.5 times more than their previous salaries — divvied up among the nine adults and 11 kids on the show. Those negotiations with the WME-repped family and series producer Gurney Prods caused a delay in the start of the season.
In today’s GQ article profiling the family behind the reality hit, Robertson — who in the story described his family as “Bible-thumpers who just happened to end up on television” — sounded off on among other things homosexuality, calling it a sin. “It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.” Later, when asked what is sinful, he replied: “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.”
The comments quickly drew the ire of gay-rights groups like GLAAD. “Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil’s lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe,” said GLAAD spokesperson Wilson Cruz. “He clearly knows nothing about gay people or the majority of Louisianans – and Americans – who support legal recognition for loving and committed gay and lesbian couples. Phil’s decision to push vile and extreme stereotypes is a stain on A&E and his sponsors who now need to reexamine their ties to someone with such public disdain for LGBT people and families.” The group said it reached out to A&E to see whether the network stood by Robertson’s statements.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.