'Duck Dynasty' Family "Cannot Imagine the Show" Without Phil Robertson -- So What's Next?

The reality stars have released a statement about the anti-gay controversy surrounding their patriarch

The media firestorm continues to swirl around Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson in the wake of some short-sighted, anti-gay comments he made to GQ.

When the show's network, A&E, quickly put Phil on indefinite hiatus (and emphatically insisted that it did not share his views), a host of outspoken commentators emerged from both sides of this country's highly polarized culture war. Among those on the conservative, traditional-values side, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Fox News host Sean Hannity have all spoken out in Robertson's defense. (Actually, several Fox News contributors have had choice words to offer.) 

Meanwhile, GLAAD, CNN host Piers Morgan, and various liberal journalists have rallied their progressive-leaning troops by condemning Phil's remarks. Meredith Blake of the LA Times wrote that the TV star's "comments about the sinfulness of gays and black people under Jim Crow… are about as forward-thinking as his Old Testament facial hair." Even PETA, which has long reviled the show (obviously, for its own reasons), had something to say: "PETA wants A&E to do more than suspend one of the characters on Duck Dynasty for damning gays," the animal rights group said in a statement. "We call on the channel to challenge the entire crew of duck slayers to ignore Sarah Palin's self-serving slap on the back for spewing hate speech and deny that they are as anti-gay as they are anti-animal."

Now the Robertson family has lent its voice to the debate. Not only do they say that they stand firmly behind their patriarch, but the statement includes a polite ultimatum: "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." Here's the full statement:

"We want to thank all of you for your prayers and support. The family has spent much time in prayer since learning of A&E's decision. We want you to know that first and foremost we are a family rooted in our faith in God and our belief that the Bible is His word. While some of Phil’s unfiltered comments to the reporter were coarse, his beliefs are grounded in the teachings of the Bible. Phil is a Godly man who follows what the Bible says are the greatest commandments: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart" and "Love your neighbor as yourself." Phil would never incite or encourage hate. We are disappointed that Phil has been placed on hiatus for expressing his faith, which is his constitutionally protected right. 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.  We are in discussions with A&E to see what that means for the future of Duck Dynasty. Again, thank you for your continued support of our family."

In other words… A&E had better reinstate Phil, or they'll walk?

Truth be told, it's highly unlikely that it will come to that. The network is not about to allow the highest-rated cable TV show to walk out the door. If anything, this controversy can benefit the network, as long as they emerge from it with the show intact. Duck Dynasty exists, in large part, to exploit the cultural differences of this country. Phil's comments have merely stirred the pot.

What's going to happen? Here's an educated guess: A&E will let the holidays swoop in and tune out all the shouting for a few days. Then they'll quietly reinstate Phil at the center of the show. By the time the culture warriors return from vacation, they'll be ready to pick up the next story in the news cycle. And PETA will go right on as usual, calling for viewers to boycott those duck murderers.

Jennifer Graham Kizer is an iVillage contributing writer. Follow her on Google+.

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