WASHINGTON — The recent suspension of Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson over comments he made on homosexual behavior has prompted a storm of controversy and major boycott threats.
Robertson and his family are the focal point for the A&E show Duck Dynasty, which follows the Louisiana clan’s home, business and recreational life as successful duck-call manufacturers.
The reality TV show attracts a weekly viewership of around 14 million people, according to the Nielsen Co.’s television ratings reports, and it has broken records for the most-watched nonfiction cable telecast in history. In addition, the family has been involved in a number of books, speaking events and merchandise deals.
The family has also gained attention for its outspoken defense of Christian beliefs, including support for pro-life positions and for traditional marriage.
In an interview with GQ magazine for its January edition — released online Dec. 18 — Robertson commented on his beliefs about homosexual behavior.
“Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong,” Robertson said of the acceptance of sin in modern culture. “Sin becomes fine.”
“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there,” he said, when asked by the interviewer what he believed to be sinful. “Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.”
He also commented that sin in general is “not logical,” adding that it did not make sense to him why men would find same-sex intercourse as “more desirable” than heterosexual sex.
Despite believing this behavior to be sinful, he said that he did not judge people, explaining, “We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus — whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ’em out later.”
In response to his statements, A&E announced that it had “placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.”
“We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ,” the network said, adding that Robertson’s views do not reflect those of “Duck Dynasty or of A&E Networks, which have “always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community.”
The network has since received an outpouring of complaints. In less than 24 hours, a Facebook page entitled “Boycott A&E Until Phil Robertson Is Put Back On Duck Dynasty” garnered more than 930,000 likes, surpassing A&E’s Facebook page by more than 350,000.
In addition, more than 73,000 people signed an online petition labeled #IStandWithPhil.
Robertson later released a statement clarifying that his mission is “to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the Bible teaches,” adding that “part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together.”
“However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me,” he said. “We are all created by the Almighty, and like him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.”
Homosexual-advocacy group GLAAD denounced Robertson’s remarks as “some of the vilest and most extreme statements uttered against LGBT people in a mainstream publication.” The organization said his comments were hateful and discriminatory and applauded his indefinite suspension.
The Duck Commander Defenders
Others, however, came to the defense of the Robertsons. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is Catholic, called them “great citizens of the state of Louisiana” in a Dec. 19 statement. He criticized the “politically correct crowd” for stigmatizing viewpoints “they disagree with.”
“It is a messed-up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended,” Jindal continued, in a reference to pop singer Cyrus’ highly publicized sexual gestures during recent musical performances.
Doug Napier, senior legal vice president for Alliance Defending Freedom, argued in a Dec. 19 statement that “one-sided censorship of the cultural and political elites” has damaged the “free marketplace of ideas” and “open discussion about important cultural issues.”
Brian Brown, president of National Organization for Marriage, called Robertson’s statements a “traditional Christian view of homosexuality — decry the sin but love the sinner.”
“It’s what every major Christian leader, including Jesus Christ himself, has taught us,” Brown said.
He criticized A&E’s deference to homosexual-advocacy organizations, saying that doing so is giving in to intolerance.
These groups, he said, “will brook no objection, tolerate no dissent and accept no disagreement when it comes to their orthodoxy.”
“What Phil Robertson said about homosexuality as an evangelical Christian in his GQ interview reflects the teaching of the Catholic Church and the viewpoint of a vast majority of Americans,” Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, said in a Dec. 20 statement. “A&E willingly capitulated to the intimidation tactics of the militant homosexuals.”
Robertson Family Sticks With Phil
Robertson’s family, however, have made clear that they have no interest in continuing Duck Dynasty without the family patriarch. In a statement thanking people for their prayers and support, the Robertsons said that Phil is a “Godly man” who believes, as they do, in the two greatest commandments: to love God and neighbor.
“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,” they said. “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.”
Register staff contributed to this report.