Despite much controversy over the past two weeks, Duck Dynasty will return on schedule next year, with Phil Robertson an active participant, A&E announced.
The company suspended Robertson indefinitely December 18 following controversial anti-gay comments the 67-year-old made in an interview with GQ.
Duck Dynasty had been on hiatus when the comments went public; the show is set to return in January and to resume filming new episodes this spring.
None of that will change. The network, “after discussions with the Robertson family, as well as consulting with numerous advocacy groups,” says the show will go on.
The Robertson family admitted that the anti-gay comments were coarse, but criticized the suspension and implied they would not film without Phil.
Since the national controversy erupted, Phil Robertson has been defiant, reiterating his stance on gays, sin and homosexuality at a Bible study group.
He has been roundly criticized by gay rights groups, but supporters began demanding his reinstatement and even planning a Chick-Phil-A Day.
The network thus found itself in the midst of a PR nightmare, and ultimately decided to distance itself from Phil's views while still bringing back the show.
A&E's statement on the decision, released Friday, reads:
As a global media content company, A&E Networks’ core values are centered around creativity, inclusion and mutual respect. We believe it is a privilege for our brands to be invited into people’s home and we operate with a strong sense of integrity and deep commitment to these principals.
That is why we reacted so quickly and strongly to a recent interview with Phil Robertson. 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.
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. 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.
We will also use this moment to launch a national public service campaign (PSA) promoting unity, tolerance and acceptance among all people, a message that supports our core values as a company, and the values found in Duck Dynasty. These PSAs will air across our entire portfolio.
And that's that. While there may be backlash and protests as a result of its decision, A&E was going to get that regardless, and is standing by its cash cow.
Do you think their statement and justification goes far enough? Or did Robertson deserve more than a wrist slap? Comment and vote in our survey below:
A&E lifting Robertson's suspension: Right or wrong?