(AP) ‘Duck Dynasty’ fans react to Robertson’s hiatus
By JOHN ROGERS
When the A&E network suspended “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson for disparaging gay people, it may have followed a time-honored TV tradition of quickly silencing a star who, for better or worse, speaks his mind. But in doing so it also ruffled the feathers of possibly millions of fans of its most popular show.
Fourteen hours after it was learned that Robertson had been placed on indefinite “hiatus” for telling GQ magazine, among other things, that gays are headed to hell, more than a half-million people liked an impromptu Facebook page demanding the show be boycotted until he returns.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who had her picture taken with Robertson just last month, complained that his free-speech rights were being trampled. Bobby Jindal, governor of the state of Louisiana, where the show is filmed, complained that Miley Cyrus got a pass for twerking on TV while Phil got shown the door.
T-shirts, of course, went on the market with the words “I Don’t Give a Duck About A or E, Bring Back Phil.”
It’s also a show that 67-year-old Robertson, who sports a beard that seemingly should qualify him for immediate membership in the rock group ZZ Top, is at the center of.
When or if he’ll return _ or if he’ll ever really go away, however _ is an open question.
And blow over it will, eventually, says veteran Hollywood crisis publicist Howard Bragman, who added that Robertson will likely return to the show as well, perhaps after making a heartfelt apology.
The Robertson family released a statement on the Duck Commander website (http://bit.ly/1c5vI5G ) Thursday evening in which they expressed thanks for prayers and support. The statement said though some of Robertson’s comments were coarse, “his beliefs are grounded” in the Bible and he “is a Godly man.”
Robertson and his extended family became wealthy manufacturing duck calls and were turned into TV and pop culture stars by “Duck Dynasty,” which has set cable ratings records for a non-fiction series.
Asked his definition of sinful behavior by GQ, Robertson replied, “Start with homosexual behavior and just go from there.”
Then he continued, “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers _ they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
Although his suspension won quick praise from gay rights groups, it offended people like Peter, who says conservative views like his are often overlooked by Hollywood and the news media.
Randy Schmidt of Illinois agreed, saying that while gay people can be happy that some states have granted them the right to marry, “I find it unnecessary to flaunt it all over the media.”
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what conservative fans may think, said another veteran crisis publicist, Michael Levine. A&E had no choice but to suspend Robertson, he said. If the network didn’t, it would have had to deal with complaints from gay rights groups that would have made advertisers skittish and damaged the “Duck Dynasty” brand.
This isn’t the first time, of course, that someone has been taken off a popular show for remarks or behavior away from the cameras.
Isiah Washington was fired from “Grey’s Anatomy” in 2007 for referring to one of his show’s gay actors with a pejorative.
More recently, Charlie Sheen’s erratic behavior got him tossed from “Two And a Half Men,” even though the show was a hit and he was the star.
But the interesting thing about this controversy, said Bragman, who himself is gay, is that it seems to be occurring during a time when American culture is undergoing a profound shift in its feelings toward gay rights.
AP Television Writer Frazier Moore in New York contributed to this report. He can be reached at fmoore(at)ap.org and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier.