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A&E lifts suspension, back in business with Phil Robertson, 'Duck Dynasty'

Don't look for a social conscience at a cable channel like A&E

By David Zurawik

The Baltimore Sun

5:52 PM EST, December 27, 2013

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One of the shortest and most meaningless suspensions in TV history ended Friday with A&E announcing that it was back in business with "Duck Dynasty" and its 67-year-old, bearded patriarch Phil Robertson.

The announcement was a total cave-in by a cable channel in the face of a defiant Robertson and the members of his Louisiana clan.

The cable channel had put Robertson on "hiatus" Dec. 18 after he was quoted in a GQ article comparing homosexuality to bestiality while making other ignorant and insulting comments about gay identity and sexuality.

While A&E issued a high-sounding statement about its commitment to inclusiveness, tolerance and diversity, Robertson and his family stood firm behind his remarks.

The family issued a statement saying it didn't see how it could "go forward" without its "patriarch" -- calling A&E's bluff.

And last Sunday, Robertson told a church audience in Louisiana he was not going to "back down" an inch on what he believes is a Biblical interpretation of homosexuality.

In the end, for all the cultural baggage of the controversy, there was never any question whether a cable channel known for shows like "Dog The Bounty Hunter" was going to give up the kind of money "Duck Dynasty" made for it on principle. A&E is not a place to look for socially responsible programming.

For the record, this never was about the First Amendment, and anyone who says otherwise is badly misinformed. An employer has every right to fire an employe for the kind of remarks Robertson made and the damage they could do the employer's identity.

But then, you would have to have an employer involved who had an identity that stood for something other than making a buck via some of the cheapest programming available.

For the record, here is A&E's disingenuous statement.

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 mis-interpretation 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.

Friday's move by A&E was first reported by The Hollywood Reporter.