A&E reverses on Duck Dynasty, unsurprisingly

Late Friday between two major holidays, the time when one releases news one wants to get a lot of attention, the parent company of A&E announced that Phil Robertson won’t be suspended from Duck Dynasty after all, and will be part of filming when it resumes next year (the next season, featuring Phil, has already been taped). A+E had suspended him “indefinitely” for equating gay people with terrorists and those who practice bestiality, never mind insisting that black people in the South were happier pre-civil rights.

Depending upon your perspective, A+E caved to public/political pressure, or just to the possibility that the other cast members would walk away with the network’s most-popular series. Of course, just as firing Phil would have been the company’s right, so is changing its mind, though it is incredible how rapidly it went from being “strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community” (such as, you know, some of their own employees) to a company that is such a strong supporter and champion of something that will make it money. Not that this is a surprise.

A+E’s full statement does provide more perspective about their thinking, saying the show itself–which is, remember, scripted–reflects the same values as the company.

“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.”

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.