Less than a week after Phil Robertson was suspended by A&E from the hit show Duck Dynasty, the hunting equipment mogul and his family are pushing back. Speaking with the British Daily Mail newspaper, a “source close to the family” said that the network was aware of the controversial things that Robertson had said in an interview but declined to suppress them even though it could have.
“It is our belief that they knew what was going to happen and then used the situation to exercise control over Phil,” the newspaper’s source said.
Robertson was suspended by the network over coarsely worded comments he made in an interview with GQ magazine which condemned homosexuality as an irrational sin. He framed his condemnation in Christian terms saying that despite his view that being gay was wrong, it was his duty to “just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus.”
Robertson also came under fire for making a reference to the time before the modern welfare state and said that black Americans were “happy” with their situation at that time, even though that time also included state-mandated racial segregation.
According to the Daily Mail’s source, A&E was aware that Robertson had said such things but declined to suppress the quotes:
“You have to ask yourself, why this interview happened and why it ever became public. Someone from A&E was there and was aware of the kind of answers Phil was giving. But despite that, they didn’t ever try to stop it or control it. Instead, they let it hit the headlines and then released a statement condemning it.”
The paper’s source claimed that the reason A&E was seeking to bring Robertson into line was that the Duck Dynasty phenomenon had become something they could no longer control.
“It is our understanding that when the TV executives came up with the concept for the show they wanted it to be a case of people laughing at a bunch of backward rednecks,” the source is quoted as saying. “But when it didn’t turn out like that and people actually started identifying with the way the family behaved and were laughing with them, not at them, they became uncomfortable. It did not sit well with the New York TV types.”
The attempt to rein in Robertson appears not to have worked, however. Besides setting off a firestorm among fans of the show, the family indicated last week that it was contemplating parting ways with A&E over the suspension.
“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,” the family said in a statement released last Friday.
In a sermon he delivered yesterday, Robertson defended himself saying that he was merely quoting from the Bible in saying that homosexuality was sinful:
“I am just reading what was written over 2,000 years ago. Those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom. All I did was quote from the scriptures, but they just didn’t know it. Whether I said it, or they read it, what’s the difference? The sins are the same, humans haven’t changed.”
Robertson was referencing 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 which states:
“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
In the speech, Robertson said that quoting the Bible is not inciting hate and that he himself loved gay people as much as anyone else. “‘I love all men and women. I am a lover of humanity, not a hater,” he was quoted as saying.
Regardless of the ultimate fate of the Duck Dynasty show, Entertainment Weekly reported last week that the new season which begins in January will not have Phil Robertson edited out of the scenes.