LOS ANGELES (AP) – “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson will return to work on A&E’s reality show despite his comments about gay immorality, the channel said Friday, reversing its decision to suspend him after facing a boycott backlash.
In a statement Friday, A&E said it was bringing Robertson back after discussions with his Louisiana family featured in the hit reality series and “numerous advocacy groups.”
Last week, the channel had put Robertson on what it called an indefinite “hiatus” because of his comments in a GQ magazine article that the Bible views gays as sinners akin to adulterers, prostitutes and swindlers.
A&E said it decided to drop Robertson from the show about a wealthy family that makes duck calls because it is part of a company whose core values are “centered around creativity, inclusion and mutual respect.”
While reiterating that Robertson’s views are not those of the channel, A&E noted Friday that he has publicly said he would “never incite or encourage hate.” The show itself is more than one man’s views, it added.
“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,” A&E said.
The Robertson family said it had no immediate comment Friday.
Robertson’s remarks in GQ were quickly slammed by groups including GLAAD, the gay rights group, which responded critically to A&E’s decision Friday.
“If dialogue with Phil is not part of (the) next steps then A&E has chosen profits over African-American and gay people – especially its employees and viewers,” GLAAD said, referring to Robertson’s comment to GQ that he never saw “the mistreatment of any black person” and that the ones he picked cotton with in the pre-Civil Rights South were happy.
But A&E’s move against Robertson provoked a flood of support from those who share his views and others who defended his freedom of speech.