It only took nine days for A&E to forgive its Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson for the racist and homophobic comments he made in a recent GQ interview, announcing Friday that his suspension would be lifted when filming of the semi-scripted reality show resumes in 2014. Defending that the program is about a family and its values — not one man’s views — the network said it shares those values of “unity, tolerance, and forgiveness” and plans to do more to promote “unity, tolerance, and acceptance”:
…Duck Dynasty is not a show about one man’s views. 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.
So after discussions with the Robertson family, as well as consulting with numerous advocacy groups, A&E has decided to resume filming Duck Dynasty later this spring with the entire Robertson family.
We will also use this moment to launch a national public service campaign (PSA) 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. These PSAs will air across our entire portfolio.
Of course, the entire show was on hiatus from filming this month for duck season, per contractual requirement, so Robertson’s suspension proved to be nothing but symbolic. In fact, Robertson’s comments did little to impact the status quo at the network, which continued to air reruns of Duck Dynasty, including a marathon on Christmas Day.
Robertson’s comments comparing homosexuality to bestiality and suggesting that African Americans were better off without full civil rights prompted fierce responses from conservatives, who defended his right to free speech. Sarah Palin, for example, argued that free speech was becoming an “endangered species,” only to admit later that she hadn’t even read what he said. But Robertson’s free speech was never at risk; the question was whether his dangerous rhetoric deserved the pedestal of a nationally televised program.
Most of the conservatives defending Robertson completely ignored his racist comments — as apparently so did A&E — and instead simply sided with his religious beliefs about homosexuality. But even his homophobia clearly extends beyond the “love the sinner, hate the sin” framing that opponents of LGBT equality use to sugarcoat their bigotry. His follow-up comments in the week after his interview was published confirmed that he actually believes in the potential for homosexuality to be cured, exclaiming that Jesus will “take it away.” Ex-gay therapy has been found to be harmful and ineffective, and both California and New Jersey have banned the treatment for minors lest they be subjected to it against their will by unaccepting families.
The family is excited to keep making a quality tv show for our dedicated fans, who have showed [sic] us wonderful support. We will continue to represent our faith and values in the most positive way through Duck Dynasty and our many projects that we are currently working on. The outpouring of support and prayer has encouraged and emboldened us greatly.