“Duck Dynasty” supporters have won their standoff with A&E: The network has reversed its suspension of star Phil Robertson for making anti-gay comments, and he will not miss a single episode of the upcoming season.
Shooting will resume in the spring, and will be accompanied by a series of public service announcements “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,'” the network said.
The standoff created a catch-22 for A&E: “Duck Dynasty” is the most popular reality show on cable, but ignoring Robertson’s comments would have made it appear insensitive. After Robertson was suspended, the rest of the cast put A&E in a bind by saying they couldn’t imagine doing the series without their patriarch.
When A&E suspended Robertson, it said in a statement that it was “extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series ‘Duck Dynasty.'”
“His personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community,” A&E added. “The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.”
On Friday, it explained why it had abandoned that decision.
“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 mis-interpretation of his core beliefs based only on the article,” the network said. “He also made it clear he would ‘never incite or encourage hate.’ We at A+E Networks expressed our disappointment with his statements in the article, and reiterate that they are not views we hold.
“But Duck Dynasty is not a show about one man’s views,” A&E added. “It resonates with a large audience because it is a show about family… a family that America has come to love. 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.”
Bill Jacobson over at Legal Insurrection asks the money question:
I wonder if the ["unity"] PSA’s will include a message of tolerance and acceptance by liberal media and political elites of religious Christians?
I’ll answer it even though I suspect the question was rhetorical: Don’t count on it. If A&E cared about “tolerance” and “unity” they would have never suspended Robertson in the first place and instead would have told the hacks at GLAAD to practice the inclusiveness that they preach. The decision to walk back the suspension of Phil Robertson was not out of any new-found respect/tolerance for the Robertson family but instead was all about cold, hard cash – pure and simple.
Social/Christian conservatives haven’t had many victories in the pop culture realm in recent history, but this one is pretty huge – no matter A&E’s stated reasons for their reversal. Take a bow, for the next fight is surely right around the corner…
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