Robertson used strong words from a Bible passage to condemn homosexual conduct in an interview with GQ magazine. That set off a firestorm of reaction from homosexual groups, and A&E immediately announced Robertson’s indefinite suspension from filming of the show. Robertson supporters protested that freedom of speech is at stake and immediately started a petition drive to keep him on the show.
Robertson issued this statement: “I myself am a product of the ’60s; I centered my life around sex, drugs and rock and roll until I hit rock bottom and accepted Jesus as my Savior. My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the Bible teaches, and 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. 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.”
The “Duck” star didn’t have to defend himself. In addition to the outpouring of support in social media, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana spoke out, declaring “Phil Robertson and his family are great citizens of the state of Louisiana.” Jindal also bashed the “politically correct crowd” for being “tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with.”
Robertson has a right to freedom of expression, and he exercised it. A&E has a right to run its business the way it sees fit, and in this case it suspended Robertson from filming. Each can take the consequences.
But the show may not suffer. To the contrary, according to Eric Schiffer, chairman of Reputation Management Consultants in Illinois, per the San Jose Mercury News. “Duck Dynasty won’t get shot out of the sky over this and shall fly for many more years to come,” he said, adding that the controversy might help the show. “Many viewers who agree with (Robertson), which is a not insignificant portion of the show’s audience, will likely find the show even more consistent to their internal value orientation.”
Last summer, there was talk of Louisiana Republicans recruiting Robertson to run for Congress. To that, Robertson told US Weekly, “Yeah, I mean, I’d consider everything. But you know, at this point in my life, I’m really busy. Maybe we can help the country in some way, get these guys to be more efficient and all that. I don’t know. I don’t think now is the right time but who knows about one day?”
Maybe A&E has thrown Robertson into the briar patch, right where he wants to be, with a bigger audience and a hiatus from the show to run for political office.