"Duck Dynasty" fans react to Robertson's hiatus

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LOS ANGELES (AP) - 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 a show that is promoting clean living and good moral values, and that's something we need more of today," one of the program's many fans, Rick Peter of Vernon, British Columbia, Canada, told The Associated Press.

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.

"Duck Dynasty" is on hiatus until Jan. 15, and a network spokesman said Thursday that nine of next season's 10 episodes have already been filmed. That means Robertson likely isn't needed in front of the camera before next March, by which time this whole crisis may have blown over.

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.

"There's too much money at stake," said Bragman, vice president of reputation.com. "Although he plays kind of a hick on TV, I don't think he's dumb. I think he gets what's at stake here. And I hope people on his team, the network and his producers get the message that what he did was wrong. "

The Robertson family released a statement on the Duck Commander website 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."

"We are disappointed that Phil has been placed on hiatus for expressing his faith," the statement 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. We are in discussions with A&E to see what that means for the future of Duck Dynasty."

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.

"Duck Dynasty" is often the highest-rated cable show on television, and an episode last August that drew nearly 12 million viewers was the highest-rated of any show, cable or broadcast, that week.

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.

"I think we're getting a little bit tired of that pro-gay sentiment that's out there in the media and it's time to fight back," he said.

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.

"The advertisers, the brand, people would stop buying 'Duck Dynasty' merchandise," he said. "At a certain point the brand just becomes radioactive."

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.

"The tide has turned in that there's an inevitability to gay marriage and gay rights in this country," he said, noting that New Mexico's highest court coincidentally upheld same-sex marriage rights on Thursday, the day after A&E's announcement.

"This is taking place during an interesting cultural touchstone moment," he added.

Photo: This 2012 photo released by A&E shows, from left, Phil Robertson, Jase Robertson, Si Robertson and Willie Robertson from the A&E series, "Duck Dynasty." The A&E channel says "Duck Dynasty" patriarch Phil Robertson is off the show indefinitely after condemning gays as sinners in a magazine interview. In a statement Dec. 18, A&E said it was extremely disappointed to read Robertson's comments in GQ magazine. (AP/A&E/Zach Dilgard)



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  • Just one more example of how the conservative news media is trying to divide and distract the public. This guy is just some ignorant socially-conservative hick from a reality TV show. It's not even news worthy. On ever cable station this story was running night and day, all the while real issues like homelessness, poverty, unemployment, under-employment, etc. are forgotten about. This guy is dumb, his comments were hateful, and he deserves to be booted from the show. But he does not deserve all the coverage and attention that could be spent somewhere else. We have Sarah Palin taking time and energy to defend a TV star, instead of discussing legitimate issues that affect the American Public. lol

    Posted by Dan, 01/01/2014 2:42pm (1 year ago)

  • No one should say he doesn't have freedom of speech. He certainly does, he can say what he wants. But A&E also has the right to suspend him. Why should we feel bad for Robertson? He's rich! And then goes around acting like some poor hick on TV while he's rollin' in the dough off the cameras. First of all it's a stupid show. Secondly he clearly knew he shouldn't say hateful things while currently employed by the network, especially to another media outlet - the magazine. He signed, and agreed to, a contract from A&E when hired. And his comments on gays are not the only issue here. He is clearly a bigot, just look to how he characterized blacks - and his idiotic comments on how they were happier without any rights than they are now. etc. He's just not a very good icon for people to look up to

    Posted by T, 01/01/2014 12:39pm (1 year ago)

  • If the Kingdom of Heaven is populated by the likes of the Duck Dynasty it seems to be a place to avoid.

    Posted by Thomas Riggins, 12/26/2013 10:08am (1 year ago)

  • what's not going to blow over is that hateful words hurt, like a fist. some young people are being taught to hate and others are taught that they are going to hell. gays have been bullied and murdered and suicided because of hate talk. his so called "biblical" --which bible is that? -- lifestyle is a cover for ugly talk and he should shut up!

    Posted by Barbara Chicago, 12/20/2013 2:32pm (1 year ago)

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