It’s been a few days since A&E put the Duck Dynasty patriarch on “hiatus” from the show for comments he made in a GQ interview about gay people and African-Americans. The Robertson family released a statement this week, saying that they stood with their father and weren’t sure the show could go on.
While some of Phil’s unfiltered comments to the reporter were coarse…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.
Phil himself had been quiet, until he granted the UK’s Daily Mail exclusive access to a Bible study where he spoke on Sunday. While he said “I love all men and women. I am a lover of humanity, not a hater,” he stayed on message, calling homosexuality a sin, sex in general a dangerous proposition, and detailing how sinners can be saved by the Christian path. He went on to say:
“We murder each other and we steal from one another, sex and immorality goes ballistic. All the diseases that just so happen to follow sexual mischief … boy there are some microbes running around now. [...] Sexual sins are numerous and many, I have a few myself. So what is your safest course of action? 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.’ Adam was made and Eve was made for this reason. They left their fathers and mothers and united to become one flesh, that’s what marriage is all about.”
Phil Robertson’s firing has ignited a national discussion of the First Amendment, the right which his family and many of his supporters claim was violated by firing from A&E. This is simply inaccurate, given that people are held accountable by their employers every day for saying things that are offensive or against the beliefs of the organization. The right to say something does not remove the risk of punishment for it from private entities, which is a detail people miss when they call natural consequences violations of free speech.
Many fans have brought up the public reaction to the Dixie Chicks several years ago, when lead singer Natalie Maines criticized President George W. Bush. The country music fan base, a demographic very much like Phil Robertson’s supporters, had the band removed from country radio by sheer volume of negative reaction for doing just what Phil Robertson did — speaking their minds. How is this different, other than in subject matter? Maines has her own thoughts on the matter, including that A&E’s punishment is based in concern for ratings and profit, and that they must have known his personal opinions before they were published in a magazine.
Are we up in arms because the Duck Dynasty guy thinks homosexuality is evil or because he said it out loud?
— Natalie Maines (@1NatalieMaines) December 20, 2013
One thing is very clear: Phil Robertson and Duck Dynasty have some serious support, and Phil is sticking to what he believes:
“We are a bunch of rednecks from Louisiana, but I am not uneducated, I have a degree from Louisiana Tech. But this week I have been called an ignoramus. This week I have been asked, ‘Is this the first time you have brought up sin?’ I said, ‘Are you kidding? I have been traveling to and fro spreading this message … I have made hundreds and hundreds of speeches and you can pick them apart and the center has always been Jesus Christ. Do many people get up and walk out? Yeah, all the time, do I hold it against them? No. Anybody can get up and stop listening. We are all just humans on this planet.”
Put that way, it’s pretty simple. Do I have to like what Phil Robertson says? No. Does he have a right to say it? Yes. Does A&E have a right, as a private employer, to remove people from its ranks who don’t represent what they care to impart to the viewing public? Sure. Does everyone have to like it? No. Can we get up and stop listening or hunker down and listen extra? Absolutely. Up to you.
“Well we’ve had a quite a quiet week, shot some ducks, done some shopping, ignited a national controversy,” Robertson’s son Pastor Alan said during the Bible study, not clarifying whether they’d be back on the air in full or in part in the new year. Entertainment Weekly reported that Phil’s footage will remain intact when the series kicks off again in January, and with an average 14.6 million viewers, including DVR playback, the franchise is certainly a huge moneymaker for both parties. Massive restaurant chain Cracker Barrel rolled back their boycotts of Duck Dynasty merchandise after negative customer responses just two days after they made the decision to yank them, so the pull of public opinion is strong on this one.
I’ll be interested to see how this plays out, but if I were to make a wild stab at a prediction, I’d say that there’s a good chance the Robertson family will be back intact on televisions everywhere in 2014. The EW source said that there was hope that the furor would die down over the holidays, and everyone would be ready to carry on after that, as proof (or not) of the value of even bad publicity.
No matter what happens, I’m pretty sure there will be coverage.
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