Washington D.C., Dec 19, 2013 / 17:44 pm
The recent suspension of "Duck Dynasty" patriarch Phil Robertson over comments made on homosexual behavior has prompted a storm of controversy and major boycott threats.
Robertson and his family are the focal point for the A&E show "Duck Dynasty," which follows the Louisiana clan's home, business and recreational life as successful duck-call manufacturers.
The show attracts a weekly viewership of around 14 million people, according to the Nielsen Company's television ratings reports, and has broken records for the most-watched nonfiction cable telecast in history. In addition, the family has been involved in a number of books, speaking events and merchandise.
The family has also gained attention for its outspoken defense of Christian beliefs, including support of pro-life positions and for marriage.
In an interview with GQ magazine for its January edition – released online Dec. 18 – Robertson commented on his beliefs about homosexual behavior.
"Everything is blurred on what's right and what's wrong," Robertson said of the acceptance of sin in modern culture. "Sin becomes fine."
"Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there," he said when asked what he believed to be sinful. "Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men."
He also commented that sin in general is "not logical," saying that it did not make sense to him why men would find same-sex interactions as "more desirable" than heterosexual sex.
Despite believing this behavior to be sinful, he said that he did not judge people, explaining, "We just love 'em, give 'em the good news about Jesus – whether they're homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort 'em out later."
In response to his statements, A&E announced that it had "placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely."
"We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson's comments in GQ," the network said, adding that Robertson's views do not reflect those of Duck Dynasty or of A&E Networks, which have "always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community."
The network has since received an outpouring of complaints. In less than 24 hours, a Facebook page entitled "Boycott A&E Until Phil Robertson Is Put Back On Duck Dynasty" garnered more than 930,000 likes, surpassing A&E's Facebook page by more than 350,000.
In addition, more than 73,000 people signed an online petition labeled #IStandWithPhil.
Robertson later released a statement clarifying that his mission is "to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the Bible teaches," adding that "part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together."
"However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me," he stressed. "We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other."
Gay advocacy group GLAAD denounced Robertson's remarks as "some of the vilest and most extreme statements uttered against LGBT people in a mainstream publication." The organization said his comments were hateful and discriminatory and applauded his indefinite suspension.
Others, however, came to the defense of the Robertsons. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal called them "great citizens of the State of Louisiana" in a Dec. 19 statement. He criticized the "politically correct crowd" for stigmatizing viewpoints "they disagree with."
"It is a messed-up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended," Jindal continued, in a reference to pop singer Cyrus' highly publicized sexual gestures during performances.
Doug Napier, senior legal vice president for Alliance Defending Freedom, argued in a Dec. 19 statement that "one-sided censorship of the cultural and political elites" has damaged the "free marketplace of ideas" and "open discussion about important cultural issues."
National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown called Robertson's statements a "traditional Christian view of homosexuality – decry the sin but love the sinner."
"It's what every major Christian leader including Jesus Christ himself has taught us," Brown said.
He criticized A&E's deference to gay advocacy organizations, saying that doing so is giving in to intolerance.
These groups, he said, "will brook no objection, tolerate no dissent and accept no disagreement when it comes to their orthodoxy."