The culture wars just wrapped up another successful year fighting over whether it was appropriate to say Happy Holidays, but now there is a bigger issue on the horizon. The entire nation is transfixed by the drama playing out right now over comments made by “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson. In an interview with GQ magazine to promote the show Phil was asked about some of the problems in our culture, and boy did he have an answer prepared. He’s the money quote that everyone is talking about.
Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. 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.
Now A&E which owns “Duck Dynasty” had to know this sort of comment would start a firestorm. Fearful of something hurting the profits of their cash cow, A&E acted swiftly by suspending Phil from production of the show. Reality Blurred has a great write up of A&E’s response to the controversy. By sidelining Phil from the reality show A&E hoped to nip all of this in the bud. Instead of ending the problem though, the suspension of Phil has just thrown more gas onto the culture war fire.
Within hours of the announcement voices in conservative media began coming to Phil’s defense. “Duck Dynasty” is the biggest show on TV, and a religion in the red states. Here’s Sarah Palin’s tweet about the “Duck Dynasty” suspension.
Free speech is endangered species; those “intolerants” hatin’ & taking on Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing personal opinion take on us all
— Sarah Palin (@SarahPalinUSA) December 19, 2013
The Robertson family has now released a statement about Phil’s comments, and they aren’t backing down. They’ve decided that if A&E suspends Phil then the rest of the family will stand with him and not film the show. Here’s the statement from the Robertson corporate website.
We want to thank all of you for your prayers and support. The family has spent much time in prayer since learning of A&E’s decision. We want you to know that first and foremost we are a family rooted in our faith in God and our belief that the Bible is His word. While some of Phil’s unfiltered comments to the reporter were coarse, his beliefs are grounded in the teachings of the Bible. Phil is a Godly man who follows what the Bible says are the greatest commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 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.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. We are in discussions with A&E to see what that means for the future of Duck Dynasty. Again, thank you for your continued support of our family.
Man oh man, it’s not going to be a Happy Christmas for the TV executives at A&E. Their number one money maker is threatening to becoming toxic to sponsors. This all might have blown over and forgotten in the black hole of the Christmas/New Year’s Eve season, but now A&E is being challenged by their core audience. The question remains if Phil was professing his “faith” according to the Robertson release. That cloaks all of this in the blanket of religion, and that according to the family should excuse all of his statements.
The real issue is that the Robertson’s are no longer a private family with feelings about homosexuality. They are ambassadors for the A&E brand. Everyone is entitled to free speech, but there is nothing in the constitution about the right to star on your own reality show. The same capitalism that allows for the Robertson’s to be rich and famous also holds their feet to the fire when making comments outside the cultural norm. (Free speech gives people the right to say what they want, but TV stars equating gays and lesbians to bestiality shouldn’t be surprised at the pushback.) No one is saying that Phil Robertson doesn’t have the right to believe that garbage, but being famous on TV doesn’t give you a total get out of jail free card. While this might have been a minor blip on the cultural radar, the story is now threatening to eclipse the show itself unless A&E can get a hold of the Robertson family.