A&E has ducked away from a controversy surrounding the stars of its hugely popular reality series Duck Dynasty.
The network issued a statement late Friday backing away from its previously announced suspension of Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the clan behind the successful Louisiana-based Duck Commander
duck-calling business. The suspension was triggered by Robertson's
interview with GQ, published last week, in which he made anti-gay
statements, which he said reflected his religious beliefs.
interview sparked protests from human-rights groups, and led to
A&E's quick decision to suspend Robertson from future episodes. But
that action also triggered a backlash from some Dynasty fans, who
tried to organize a boycott of the network -- and Robertson's own
family, which suggested it would not be willing to keep filming the
series without him.
In a statement, the network cited its "core values" of "inclusion and
mutual respect" to explain why "we reacted so quickly and strongly."
"While Phil's comments made in the 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.' We at A+E Networks expressed our disappointment with his statements in the article, and reiterate that they are not views we hold."
The statement then offered some wiggle room: "But 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," the statement
said. "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."
already completed 10-episode season will begin airing Jan. 15, with all
of the Robertsons featured. The new episodes, scheduled to be shot this
spring, will air later next year. Duck is the No. 2 series on cable TV,
behind The Walking Dead, and ranks among the top 30 of all TV shows
with an average of 13