Photo Credit: D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra
Whether it was the persistent support from conservative groups and politicians, or A&E’s fear of harming their money-making series, Phil Robertson will return to Duck Dynasty after just nine days of suspension for his anti-gay remarks in GQ.
In a statement released on Friday, A&E explained, "While Phil's comments made in the (GQ) 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.'" The network added, "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."
To gain support of their decision from advocacy groups, A&E has agreed to "launch a national public service campaign promoting unity, tolerance and acceptance among all people."
With this announcement came joy from Robertson supporters. His son Willie shared his excitement via Twitter:
Back to work!!! So proud of all the fans of the show and family. Ole Phil may be a little crude but his heart is good. He's the Real Deal!— Willie Robertson (@williebosshog) December 28, 2013
The Faith Driven Consumer, a group that created an IStandWithPhil.com petition, expressed their support for the reality star and their agreement with the decision.
"Today's decision by A&E to reinstate Phil Robertson to Duck Dynasty is in direct response to the powerful and engaged voices of millions of Faith Driven Consumers, as highlighted by more than 260,000 signers of the IStandWithPhil.com petition," the group wrote in a statement.
On the other side of the heated DD debate, GLAAD, an advocacy group for LGBT equality who brought the offensive remarks to A&E's attention, also released a statement.
"Phil Robertson should look African-American and gay people in the eyes and hear about the hurtful impact of praising Jim Crow laws and comparing gay people to terrorists," the organization said. "If dialogue with Phil is not part of next steps then A&E has chosen profits over African-American and gay people -- especially its employees and viewers."
The issue started when GQ published anti-gay remarks made by Robertson in an interview.
"It seems like, to me, a vagina -- as a man -- would be more desirable than a man's anus. That's just me," Robertson told the magazine. "I'm just thinking: There's more there! She's got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I'm saying? But hey, sin: It's not logical, my man. It's just not logical."
Robertson also made comments claiming that he never saw African- Americans mistreated in the pre-Civil-Rights-Era Louisiana, but instead they were "singing and happy" before the Civil Rights Act was passed.
The network quickly announced their suspension of Robertson indefinitely. With a season worth of episodes already tapped with Robertson, the suspension would only have affected the future seasons.
We aren’t surprised by A&E’s lift of the ban. Although Robertson’s remarks were offensive and portrayed an opinion based on ignorance toward the gay community, it has been argued that A&E’s solution to the problem suppressed and violated his freedom of speech and religion. Robertson’s views on the topic were based on his Conservative Christian beliefs, which have been showcased on the series for the last four seasons.
As the highest-rated television series on cable, there is no way A&E would do anything to risk the future success of ratings, especially since the show brought in $400 million in merchandise sales and $80 million in ad sales for the first nine months of this year. (Yeah, we can’t believe those numbers either.)
No matter what their reasoning for the lift of Robertson’s suspension, viewers will not have to say goodbye to their favorite duck hunter. Instead, America can continue to cringe over Robertson’s wild facial hair, hear his famous duck call, and hopefully listen to more politically correct views.
Teresa Roca is an iVillage contributing writer. Follow her on Google+.