'Duck Dynasty' patriarch in gay comments controversy to rejoin reality TV show
Los Angeles - "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 backlash and threatened boycott.
In a statement Friday, A&E said it was bringing Robertson back after discussions with his Louisiana family featured in the 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."
Robertson's remarks were quickly slammed by groups including GLAAD, the gay rights watchdog organization. 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.
A petition calling for A&E to bring him back reached 250,000 signatures and counting in about a week.
Robertson's well-known supporters included former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who complained that his free-speech rights were being trampled. Bobby Jindal, governor of the state of Louisiana, complained that Miley Cyrus got a pass for twerking on TV while Phil got shown the door.
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.
Last week, the family said in a statement on its Duck Commander website that although some of Phil Robertson's comments were coarse, "his beliefs are grounded" in the Bible and he "is a Godly man." They also said, "as a family, we cannot imagine the show going forward without our patriarch at the helm."
"Duck Dynasty" is on hiatus until Jan. 15, and the network has said that nine of next season's 10 episodes have already been filmed. That means Robertson likely wasn't needed in front of the camera before next March.
A&E said it intended to launch a national public service campaign "promoting unity, tolerance and acceptance among all people."
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