On December 18, 2013, A&E announced it put Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson on “indefinite hiatus” because of statements he made in an interview with CG Magazine. After a massive public backlash, A&E has just announced it is changing its mind and will continue the series in 2014 with Phil Robertson as part of the popular reality show.
The controversy erupted in mid December due to an interview Phil had with CG Magazine, where Phil called homosexuality a sin, and using graphic language called it illogical. An A&E representatives had monitored the interview.
The backlash was immediate. GLAAD, an activist homosexual group, called on A&E to fire Phil Robertson.Within a day, A&E caved to the pressure and announced it was suspending Phil Robertson indefinitely from ‘Duck Dynasty.’
However, the backlash by Duck Dynasty’s viewers and those concerned about free speech in America was just as immediate. Politicians, broadcasters and even those in the homosexual community said this was a Freedom of Speech issue and A&E had no business suspending Phil for simply telling his opinion. There was no hate displayed in Phil’s statements, simply disagreement.
Many were angered by what they considered to be bullying tactics by some homosexual activists trying to shut down any disagreement on their lifestyle.
Hundreds of thousands of people signed petitions demanding Phil’s return. This proved controversial in itself as Twitter suspended the account for one of the petition campaigns — Istandforphil.com — because someone apparently complained it was spam. After a six-hour suspension, Twitter apologized and restored the account, but it gave no indication of who complained. Istandforphil.com has collected over 260,000 names in their petition drive..
There were other petitions as well, one even calls for A&E to apologize to Phil.
A Facebook page supporting Phil had 1.6 million likes in a matter of hours.
The Duck Dynasty family released a statement it was not sure the family would continue producing the most popular reality show in American without Phil at the head.
A&E had totally underestimated the support for [Duck Dynasty’ and the faith and family values the show stood for. Even before Christmas, there were hints A&E was reconsidering its decisions saying the two sides would meet over the Christmas break.
A&E’s announcement it was bringing back Phil
In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, A&E said
As a global media content company, A+E Networks’ core values are centered around creativity, inclusion and mutual respect. We believe it is a privilege for our brands to be invited into people’s homes, and we operate with a strong sense of integrity and deep commitment to these principles.
That is why we reacted so quickly and strongly to a recent interview with Phil Robertson. 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 misinterpretation of his core beliefs based only on the article. 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. 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.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, filming on the 2014 season will continue after January 26th. The Hollywood Reporter writes:
The entire Robertson family has been on hiatus for duck hunting season, a contractual stipulation, which continues through Jan. 26 in their native Louisiana.
Duck Dynasty is the most popular reality show in American averaging 13.4 million viewers a week with nearly 8 million viewers in the valuable 18-49 age group . On cable TV, the show’s viewership is second only to The Walking Dead.
Reaction to A&E’s decision
However, despite A&E’s turnaround, some are still concerned about the network’s position. In a press release, Istandforphil.com said:
Despite our celebration, we remain uncertain of A&E’s true intent. Today, in the network’s statement of their core values – centered on ‘creativity, inclusion, and mutual respect’ – Faith Driven Consumers are left wondering whether A&E considers us to be a part of America’s rich rainbow of diversity.
Do they also now embrace the biblically based values and worldview held by the Robertson family and millions of Faith Driven Consumers?
Did the network’s engagement and consultation with ‘numerous advocacy groups’ include Faith Driven Consumers? We eagerly anticipate A&E’s naming of those groups to ensure that our community was included.