Last month, television network A&E suspended Phil Robertson from the popular show Duck Dynasty. The suspension followed Robertson’s controversial comments in a January GQ magazine article. Robertson made several statements in the interview regarding sexuality, religion, and race that were perceived negatively by groups such as the NAACP, GLAAD, and Human Rights Campaign, which wrote letters to A&E. The network’s decision to put the Robertson patriarch on hiatus, however, seemed to draw even more criticism, this time from the show’s fans.
The fan reaction to the suspension of one of Duck Dynasty’s most iconic characters was overwhelmingly negative. Many thought that the suspension was a move by A&E to censor Robertson and Duck Dynasty in general. The show’s social media properties were swamped with calls to bring Robertson back to the show and after a nine-day hiatus, A&E decided to reinstate Robertson.
“We’re just glad to be back to work, and A&E and us are fine,” said Willie Robertson, son and heir of Phil Robertson’s duck call empire.
The younger Robertson finally spoke out about the situation during a live interview with Fox News hosts Bill Hemmer and Elizabeth Hasselbeck on New Year’s Eve.
“We’re looking forward to getting back to making some funny shows. It’s a new year so we’re ready to break in a New Year and start it all over again,” Willie Robertson said. “We’re ready to move on, you know. I think we all learned a lot and we’re just ready to move on, and the family’s happy, and we’re ready to go.”
Throughout Phil Robertson’s nine-day suspension, his large family was eager to support him and their shared values. The family previously stated that it could not see Duck Dynasty moving forward without Phil Robertson at the helm, and was a major force in pushing for his return. Many of the Robertsons’ sponsors and business partners also stuck by the family during their time of need, including notable companies such as Under Armour and Realtree.
“Realtree’s partnership with Phil Robertson and the Duck Commander team has remained strong for nearly a decade. Our plan is to continue that partnership. As a company, our values align well with the Robertson’s. Realtree’s ‘Family, Friends and the Outdoors’ slogan is one we take to heart. We support everyone’s right to their opinion, and we certainly support Phil’s right to his,” the company stated on its website.
The Robertsons’ duck call business, Duck Commander, has also partnered with Mossberg for a new line of firearms.
In contrast, some of the groups that initially called for Phil Robertson’s removal from the show have expressed disapproval for his reinstatement. Others see the dialogue created by the stir as a positive step.
“We’ve received assurances also that the Robertson family is now open to working with African-American and (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people to address the real harm that such anti-gay and racist comments can cause,” Human Rights Campaign spokesperson Fred Sainz said on CNN. “That’s been our ‘ask’ since Phil’s comments ran in GQ, and while it’s a positive step, it certainly cannot and should not be the last one.”