After Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson stirred up controversy during a GQ interview — equating homosexuality with bestiality, lauding the good ol' days when black people were content to sing in fields alongside beloved pal Jim Crow, and attributing a supposedly high murder rate among Islamists to a lack of Jesus — A&E suspended him from the show. However, the reality series has since been granted a second chance and will continue to run with Robertson in the spotlight.
The family made a statement that "while some of Phil’s unfiltered comments to the reporter were coarse, his beliefs are grounded in the teachings of the Bible," and that he "would never incite hate" because he closely follows scripture that teaches to "love your neighbor as yourself." However, they also stated that they were "disappointed that Phil has been placed on hiatus for expressing his faith, which is his constitutionally protected right." Though the First Amendment does not have any effect on private companies' ability to terminate an employee based on statements or views, rights to free speech have often been invoked in heated arguments over these issues. According to Ad Age, the network intends to use Robertson's statements as a "teachable moment." A statement from the network elaborated: "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."
Certainly, this doesn't come as a surprise. When A&E initially suspended Robertson, one of the most visible characters on its hit show, it seemed more like buying time than actually taking definitive action (one which could result in a huge financial loss for the network). If anything, this controversy will probably increase viewership, which has at times reached peaks as high as 11 million.