A&E reinstates ‘Duck Dynasty’ patriarch Phil Robertson after backlash


philrobertson(RNS) He’s back. Suspended from A&E’s popular “Duck Dynasty” reality show following his controversial comments about sexuality and race, Phil Robertson will return to the show.

In a statement to media outlets, the cable network said Robertson will rejoin the series, and because he didn’t miss any filming, his leave will have no effect on the upcoming season.

“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 misinterpretation of his core beliefs,” the statement said. “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.”

The network suggested it will move forward on another initiative touching on the issues raised during the controversy.

“We will also use this moment to launch a national public service campaign promoting unity, tolerance and acceptance among all people, a message that supports our core values as a company, and the values found in Duck Dynasty,” A&E said. “These PSAs will air across our entire portfolio.”

Robertson, who leads a reality show about members of a family that run a hunting supply company in Louisiana, was suspended by A&E after an interview with GQ magazine was published. Robertson, 67, was asked: “What, in your mind, is sinful?”

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there,” Robertson said. “Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.”

The GQ interviewer says Robertson is free to say whatever he wants out in the wild, “maybe a little too free.”

“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,” Robertson said in the interview. “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.”

His comments on race also sparked a backlash. “I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once,” he said. “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.”

After his suspension, the family said it couldn’t go on without its patriarch, saying it would work with the network to find a solution.

The suspension imposed nine days ago encapsulated a debate between sexual tolerance and religious tolerance. Tobin Grant argued that evangelicals thrive on controversy like “Duck Dynasty,” because it illustrates how evangelicalism is embattled and thriving.

“Duck Dynasty” is not only a television show. Spinoffs include books and merchandise. Cracker Barrel apologized to its customers after removing some merchandise in the latest controversy.

The Robertsons are interested in being “gospel spokespeople,” Phil Robertson’s son Alan Robertson said earlier this summer.

“We’re kind of the John the Baptists of the 21st century,” he said. “It’s how you imagine, with the wild hair and the locusts.”

About the author

Sarah Pulliam Bailey

Sarah Pulliam Bailey is a national correspondent for RNS, covering how faith intersects with politics, culture and other news. She previously served as online editor for Christianity Today where she remains an editor-at-large.


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  • Who didn’t see this coming? I think A&E manufactured this controversy to gain ratings and to introduce Duck Dynasty to those who may not have known about the show before. How could they not expect the backlash they received from loyal viewers of the show and Religious people who would be offended that a man who generally shares their views would be punished for expressing them? The folks at A&E are incredibly savvy at marketing ( and cynical ), or incredibly stupid. I really don’t believe it is the latter.

  • You mean your opinion of “God’s truth”…years past, polygamy was A-OK and shellfish or mixed fabrics were the same “abomination” as a man lying with a man. Your church doesn’t have two marry anyone, but if two gals or two guys want to benefit from civil marriage, there’s no effect on you or yours. Given all the canards about gay promiscuity (of course there’s no “straight promiscuity”, right?) one would think the family values crowd would be out in force against divorce and trying to get all the gays hitched!

  • I agree with Gary. This was easy to predict, although I did not considered this as possibly a purposeful act in order to get press. Since it is said that any press is better than no press, it could be though.
    Regardless A & E displayed the real values most businesses hold dear, greed. This show makes tons of money for A & E, and the milk is nowhere near dried up on this cash cow.
    Of course, the religious conservatives will claim victory due to the “pressure” they applied with signature drives, and with their talking heads like Palin, Beck, Limbaugh and Jindal who influence them, so they think they must influence all true Americans, since they are the epitome of true Americans.
    However, this is yet just another fantasy, real only in their minds, But then belief in fantasy is firmly anchored in their DNA anyway.
    Quack, quack, indeed!

  • You’re say polygamy was ok? With whom? God? NO. He wasn’t ok with Solomon having umpteen wives, nor any of the other gazillions of unions between any more than one man and one woman. You see, it’s the unblemished foreshadow of the ULTIMATE & ETERNAL marriage..between God and His church. There is no substitution yet there are many imposters for Our Perfect Father’s plans. Studying His Words have brought understanding and peace to me. This can be a simple or complicated argument. In my simplicity, I confess myself as NO BETTER OR WORSE SINNER THAN ANYONE ELSE. ALL SIN PUT CHRIDT ON YHAT CROSS. My bottom line is that I cannot pay the huge debt I owe to the One who gave me life. So I receive His perfect GRACE & seek to grow more and more in loving God, The Father, Jesus, His Son and The gift of the Hilly Spirit given to me upon my confession of faith in Him….to others and to myself. It’s a constant renewing of my mind by God, who is so kind and powerful and loving and most wise. He is all knowing, all powerful and all present. May He be Glorified and honored how HE WANTS TO BE. THAT’S LOVING HIM, LOVING ALL OTHERS & Yourself. Blessings to all who read His Words and are saved from this corrupt “generation.” Come, Jesus! Thank you.

  • I confess, I did not see the reinstatement coming. I thought A&E had sold him up the river to be eaten by the culture war piranhas*. And I couldn’t figure out why they would do that with their most valuable media property. But now it all makes sense. Just an advertising gimmic making use of our subconscious reflex to defend “our side” in the culture wars. I thought I was feeling jaded yet again when this story first hit. I am ever more jaded. It’s all operant conditioning imposed on us by the marketing gurus. Sigh.

    *Please note that I do not agree with Robertson’s theological or moral assessment of gays and lesbians. Or African Americans for that matter. But I also don’t think he’s a demon either. I think he is probably a pretty good guy who has never been rigorously and empathetic ally challenged on some of his core assumptions in these matters.

  • I am embarrassed for you. Your words only expose your lack of knowledge and understanding of scripture. You really should do some serious study before commenting on it again.

  • Mr. Eisner, I suggest that the volume level of the ruckus over gay rights would not be nearly as high had there been no attempt to redefine marriage.

    As for divorce, we might see much less of it if we didn’t have “no fault,” and if couples contemplating marriage had to undergo counselling.

    The most vigorous proponents of gay “marriage” are part of the crowd whose end game is the abolition of the concept of marriage itself. There are websites whose creators propose exactly this.

  • Earold, of course there is no “fantasy” among those who demand year after year the increase in funding for social programs that have proven to be failures over 5 decades. And endlessly extending unemployment benefits is a sure-fire way to get people looking for jobs, isn’t it?

    Not to mention creating a 2K-plus healthcare bill that will get coverage for everyone–while we’re actually seeing a downturn in the numbers of people covered compared to those covered before ACA came into force!

    Liberals are the first to denigrate their opposition despite mountains of evidence that they are guilty of what they accuse others.

    By he way, liberal talk radio is about to disappear in NYC and SF. How could that be? I know: the vast rightwing conspiracy in the cities of Pelosi and Bloomberg.

  • “I think he is probably a pretty good guy who has never been rigorously and empathetic ally challenged on some of his core assumptions in these matters”- Nate

    If you follow these threads closely enough, you’ll discover that the proponents of contemporary liberal values do not respond to specific points raised about their own core assumptions.

  • Duane, I only wish that the economic situation that necessitates “the increase in funding for social programs”, which was created by conservatives in the first place, and has unfortunately been lengthened by the obstructionist politics of the conservatives, driven of course by their wacky cousins, the far right tea party was a fantasy, instead of the nightmare is has become.
    As for the ACA, it irritates me that the role out went so terribly bad, but I am hopeful over time it will all work out. If not, your conservatives may get another chance, but I still have my doubts as you will still have women’s abortion rights and immigration issues to “massage”.
    It is disingenuous to say that Liberals are “first to denigrate their opposition” as their is enough denigration on both side to go around equally, but if you can explain the very first time it happened, and back it up with credible citations, I will humbly concede the matter.
    As for talk radio, I don’t listen to any, and don’t live in NY. However if anyone is being censored, in violation of their constitutional rights, I will say unequivocally right now, I will disagree with it. Since you didn’t give a citation for it, I’ll look up the allegation though.

  • I think the suspension was all for show. The season had finished filming; his “suspension” affected nothing regarding the show. All the fans ran out about spent tons of money on Duck Commander gear. I’m sure the season premiere will garner huge ratings and high advertising revenues.

    I do find it sad that people don’t understand that “freedom of speech” has nothing to do with your employment. Your employer has every right to control what you say when it may affect their bottom line.

    In the end, Phil will still have his TV show and his millions. He will still be able to believe what he likes. We should all be so persecuted.

  • Lisa,
    You’re right from a Constitutional perspective that there are no freedom of speech issues involve. An employer is free to fire an employee for what they say. However, there are more general freedom of speech issues involved. People’s willingness to speak openly about controversial topics will be stifled if they feel that employers will be pressured into firing them if they say something too controversial or something that is considered “offensive” at the time.

    How would you feel if you were interviewed for your local paper and gave your honest opinion about a controversial topic and then got a call from your boss telling you you’re fired for speaking your mind? See how this type of thing would keep people from speaking out?

  • “Regardless A & E displayed the real values most businesses hold dear, greed.”

    Or, perhaps, A&E realized it’s not right to fire someone based on their speech. Do you think it’s right to fire someone for something said while not on the job?

  • Reinstating him was the right thing to do, despite the things he said. I’m glad A&E didn’t give into the culture warriors.

  • Earold, you mean the social prgrams that were created by the GOP in the first place. Don’t confuse that political party with conservatism. Keep in mind, too, that in their percentages, more Republicans voted for LBJ’s Civil Rights Act than did Democrats. You can look that up.

    Regarding GOP obstructionism, liberals have no basis for placing any blame on the GOP or conservatives for the failures of these programs. ACA was enacted without any input from the GOP. Pelosi refused to allow ANY amendments to that huge plan that nobody read before voting for it. As for any other social programs, you cannot identify any that have been curtailed in any way by a Republican administration or Congress since their inception. This is one of the criticisms conservatives have about the GOP, that, like the Democrats, it unquestioningly refunds programs at INCREASED rates in every budget.

    Here’s what I meant when I said liberals are the first to denigrate their opposition: At every presidential campaign season the liberal party refers to the GOP as the party of bigots. However, the historical record shows that Bull Connor was a Democrat, that MLK primarily had to battle Democrat politicans in the South. While I haven’t the figures to back me up, I’ll venture that much of the residual racism and other bigotry found in this country is centered in pockets where the Democrat Party still gets most of the votes. I know that to be a fact in a few precincts in these parts.

    Earold, I listen to some talk radio and watch some FNC programming at tmes. I have issues with every one of the people behind the mikes, but I don’t listen or watch because of their personalities. I do so because they have pretty clean records when it comes to presenting important aspects of news items that the liberal media refuse to air, and sometimes present entire news items totally ignored by liberal media. This is the reason why, I submit, most conservatives tune in. It is the factual ammunition that liberals provide the alternative media that makes the alternatives attractive.

    I suggest that you do some listening and watching–you wouldnt have to do much–in order to see “where the other side’s coming from.”

    The tea party movement (there’s no legally established party as such) gains its strength mainly because the present GOP is not an alternative political party and the movement wants to make it into one so that the voters have a real choice at election time. Liberals fear this because today’s liberals are not liberal at all when it comes to tolerating dissent from their own utopian fiction about the federal government. Liberals attempt to stifle dissent. This is not liberalism as I knew it to be a half-century ago; it has become monolithic in its aims and does not like the Constitution as written. Do you like it?

  • That is what i would expect to read from someone who thinks being called a redneck is a compliment. If your Gods truth is Hate,I want no part of him. I could never worship a God that hates,or plays favorites among his children. I do not watch reality shows. They are not Real,and appeal only to mindless mouthbreathing idiots.

  • Whoa Mr. Dave hold on a bit before u go saying God’s truth is hate. People are not understanding that ,No one who is a true follower of Jesus Christ hates. Christians Love the person no matter who it is. It’s not the person it’s the sin that is committed!!
    I pray people will open there eyes to this. And see the real truth.

  • I agree to each his own. Gay straight don’t matter to me but he is a religious man and bible don’t state anywhere that a man should be with a man or woman with a woman. He was asked his opinion and gave it. Wtf ever happened to freedom speech??.. ‘Some’ Americans take to much to heart. If u don’t like what u hear or see CHANGE THE [expletive deleted] CHANNEL. He is untitled to his opinion as much as everyone else is …