The temporary suspension of Phil Robertson, the patriarch of A&E's popular reality series "Duck Dynasty," has been lifted.
The network and the Robertson family both announced yesterday that Phil will remain a part of the series. As the suspension took place during a down time in shooting, the suspension will have no effect on the upcoming fifth season.
Phil was suspended from his hit reality series almost two weeks ago following incendiary comments in a GQ magazine about homosexuality. Prior to his reinstatement, a petition started by Christian fans pulled in over 210,000 signatures demanding he be reinstated.
Robertson and his family have stood by the comments despite the ensuing media furor and political fallout, not to mention prompting major arguments over the line between free speech and hate speech. The show itself is the second best rated cable series on the air with an average 13.4 million viewers and 7.6 million adults 18-49 in live-plus-7 ratings. It also has numerous brand endorsement deals.
A&E gave the following lengthy statement to The Live Feed:
"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 homes, and we operate with a strong sense of integrity and deep commitment to these principles.
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.
GLAAD has also issued an official reaction to Robertson's reinstatement:
"Phil Robertson should look African American and gay people in the eyes and hear about the hurtful impact of praising Jim Crow laws and comparing gay people to terrorists. If dialogue with Phil is not part of next steps then A+E has chosen profits over African American and gay people – especially its employees and viewers."