A&E lifts Phil Robertson suspension from 'Duck Dynasty' after backlash

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Phil Robertson, the patriarch of A&E's popular "Duck Dynasty" reality show who was initially was suspended on Dec. 18 following some comments about sexuality and race, won't remain suspended.

A statement to media outlets said that Robertson will still be part of the series, and because he didn't miss any filming, his leave will have no effect on the upcoming season.

"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," part of the statement said. "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."

The network suggested it will move forward on another initiative touching in the issues raised during the controversy.

"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," A&E said. "These PSAs will air across our entire portfolio."

Robertson, who leads a reality show about members of a family that run a hunting supply company in Louisiana, was suspended by A&E after an interview with GQ magazine was published. Robertson, 67, was asked: "What, in your mind, is sinful?"

"Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there," Robertson said. "Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men."

The GQ interviewer says Robertson is free to say whatever he wants out in the wild, "maybe a little too free."

His comments on race also sparked a backlash. "I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once," he said. "Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I'm with the blacks, because we're white trash."

After his suspension, the family said it couldn't go on without its patriarch, saying it would work with the network to find a solution.

The overall debate touched on the tension between sexuality and religion, or as one writer put it, it hit on a debate between sexual tolerance with religious tolerance. Tobin Grant argued that evangelicals thrive on controversy like "Duck Dynasty," as it illustrates how evangelicalism is embattled and thriving.

"Duck Dynasty" is not only a television show. Books by the Robertsons often reach the bestseller lists, among its many spinoffs from the show. Cracker Barrel apologized to its customers after removing some merchandise in the latest controversy.

The Robertsons are interested in being "gospel spokespeople," Phil Robertson's son Alan Robertson said earlier this summer.

"We're kind of the John the Baptists of the 21st century," he said. "It's how you imagine, with the wild hair and the locusts."


c. 2013 Religion News Service