A&E calls Phil Robertson back to ‘Duck Dynasty’ after anti-gay flap

phil robertson
“Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson, who was suspended for making homophobic comments, will be returning to the show.
Credit: Getty Images

Cable network A&E said on Friday it was bringing back family patriarch Phil Robertson to the hit reality show “Duck Dynasty” after fans protested his suspension over anti-gay remarks and big-name corporate sponsors stuck by the series.

Robertson’s remarks to GQ magazine and his subsequent suspension by A&E sparked a nationwide debate over tolerance and religion, with conservative politicians and fans saying that Robertson’s beliefs were consistent with the Bible.

“As a global media content company, A&E Networks’ core values are centered around creativity, inclusion and mutual respect,” A&E said in a statement released late Friday in the midst of the holiday season.

“We believe it is a privilege for our brands to be invited into people’s homes and we operate with a strong sense of integrity and deep commitment to these principles.”

It was a quick reversal for the network that is jointly owned by Walt Disney Co. and privately held Hearst Corp, but the move was not entirely surprising, given the financial commitment at stake. The controversy was also seen as a test for the entertainment industry’s appeal to audiences in the heartland of America.

“Duck Dynasty” ranks among the most-watched cable television programs and averages about 8 million viewers per episode. Its fifth season is slated to begin on Jan. 15. The show’s fourth season debuted in August to 11.8 million viewers, a record for a cable nonfiction series, according to the network.

“Duck Dynasty” sponsors and retailers selling branded merchandise, such as Target and Walmart, also stuck with the show, although they did not pick sides in the public debate.

Restaurant chain Cracker Barrel notably bowed to customer pressure last weekend and restocked its Phil Robertson-themed merchandise after initially pulling it from shelves.

“Duck Dynasty” merchandise, which ranges from sporting goods and apparel to camouflage furniture, has brought in some $400 million in sales, according to Forbes magazine.

By lifting Robertson’s suspension after nine days, A&E assures that the 67-year-old will not miss production of the series’ sixth season and staves off any potential mutiny by the remainder of the family if he were to be kept off the show.

Robertson, the leader of the backwater Louisiana clan on the reality show about hunting, fishing and domestic squabbles, was put on indefinite “hiatus” on Dec. 18 by A&E for his remarks to GQ characterizing homosexuality as sinful behavior.

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph from there,” Robertson said when asked what is sinful. “Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.”

‘Back on’

A&E said it would also air a national public service campaign “promoting unity, tolerance and acceptance among all people” on all its affiliated networks, which include the History Channel and Lifetime among others.

Although Robertson never apologized for his comments, his family did say they regretted his “coarse language,” which included graphic descriptions of male and female anatomy.

The family also said it would not continue with the show without its patriarch and was in talks with the network.

A&E said at the time it was disappointed after reading Robertson’s remarks, which it added were his personal views and did not reflect those of the network.

The network’s quick move to suspend Robertson hours after the GQ story appeared online also stood in contrast to fellow cable networks The Food Network and MSNBC, which both waited days before recently parting with Southern food doyen Paula Deen and actor Alec Baldwin, respectively, after they both admitted to using slurs.

Vocal opposition from “Duck Dynasty” fans was swift in coming and an online petition started by Faith Driven Consumer, a group that connects Christian shoppers with faith-compatible companies, gained more than 260,000 signatures since Robertson’s suspension began.

Robertson’s suspension also elicited strong reaction from across the political spectrum, with conservative politicians defending Robertson as a victim of political correctness.

Early in the controversy, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal lent his support to Robertson and his family, who turned their animal-call company Duck Commander into a hunting industry leader and helped boost tourism to the state.

“I’m glad to hear that A&E came to its senses & recognized that tolerance of religious views is more important than political correctness,” he said on Twitter.

“Back on,” Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted in reference to Robertson.

Gay equality group GLAAD condemned Robertson’s comments, saying he knows nothing about gay people.

“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,” GLAAD said in a statement at the time.

GLAAD could not be reached for comment on Friday.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

News

Mets mascot Mr. Met target of Bill Clinton…

Mets mascot Mr. Met has told how he ended up in the crosshairs of a Secret Service sniper rifle. The man behind the Mr. Met…

International

Jews in eastern Ukraine ordered to register, Kerry…

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned reports that Jews in eastern Ukraine had been ordered to register with the authorities "or suffer the consequences."

National

Chelsea Clinton pregnant with first child

Chelsea Clinton is pregnant with her first child.

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

Movies

Review: 'Transcendence' is not stupid but sometimes lacks…

The cyberthriller "Transcendence" explores artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and other ethical quandaries, but has too much ambition, if anything.

Television

Dick Wolf to bring fictionalized world of 'Law…

A&E has ordered a pilot called "D.O.A." from "Law and Order" mastermind Dick Wolf that will focus on real detectives reexamining cold cases. A trio…

Television

Shane West talks WGN America's 'Salem'

The actor on history lessons, a new network and showing his butt.

NHL

Rangers draw first blood against Flyers in Game…

Brad Richards and Derek Stepan scored power-play goals 47 seconds apart to lead the Rangers to a 4-1 win.

NBA

Carmelo Anthony agonizing over Knicks future as season…

There’s still the cloud hanging over the franchise’s head as to the pending free-agent status of All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony.

NFL

Jets host players with eye toward NFL Draft

The Jets hosted a number of NFL Draft hopefuls for workouts on Thursday, with an eye toward some under-the-radar players.

NFL

Chris Johnson: I wanted to go to 'a…

Now that Chris Johnson is a Jet, the team has to figure out if one of the most explosive players in the NFL over the last half decade has anything…

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.

Travel

Earth Day travel in the Florida Keys

See why this eco-friendly destination deserves your attention.

Tech

Sorry, Facebook — FarmVille goes mobile with 'Country…

Zynga has released a version of the hit "FarmVille" tailored for smartphones and tablets in the hope of reaping a bumper crop of players.