“Duck Dynasty’s” Phil Robertson has been benched from his family’s reality show following homophobic comments he made in a GQ interview, A&E confirmed late Wednesday.
The patriarch of the network’s hit show and self-proclaimed “Bible-thumper” called “homosexual behavior” a sin, equating it with other sins like bestiality and promiscuity.
“We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series ‘Duck Dynasty,’” A&E said in a statement. “His personal views in no way reflect those of A&E Networks, who have always been supporters and champions of the LGBT community.”
The end result: “The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.”
That was fast. But A&E was under a particularly harsh glare as Robertson’s quotes went viral, and Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD both condemned his comments. And “Duck Dynasty,” as you may know, is the network’s biggest hit in history, and has continued to shatter ratings records. The show returns with new episodes on Jan. 15.
Earlier, the HRC, the influential gay-rights lobby, weighed in: “As a role model on a show that attracts millions of viewers, Phil Robertson has a responsibility to set a positive example for young Americans – not shame and ridicule them because of who they are,” HRC president Chad Griffin said in a statement, and asked for A&E to condemn Robertson’s remarks and “make clear they don’t support his views.” GLAAD called the remarks “vile.”
A few defenders have jumped into the fray. Sarah Palin posted a photo on her Facebook page hanging out with the “Duck Dynasty” star, with the caption, “Free speech is an endangered species. Those ‘intolerants’ hatin’ and taking on the Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing his personal opinion are taking on all of us.”
And Roberston got some support from his home state (the show films in Monroe, La.) as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called it a “messed up situation” early Thursday: ““Phil Robertson and his family are great citizens of the State of Louisiana. The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with,” said Jindal in a statement released by his office. “I don’t agree with quite a bit of stuff I read in magazine interviews or see on TV. In fact, come to think of it, I find a good bit of it offensive. But I also acknowledge that this is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views. In fact, I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment. It is a messed up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended.”
There’s also a change.org petition urging A&E to “end the wrongful suspension of Phil Robertson.”
Meanwhile, Robertson released a statement early Wednesday: “I myself am a product of the 60s; I centered my life around sex, drugs and rock and roll until I hit rock bottom and accepted Jesus as my Savior,” he said. “My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the Bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together.”
He continued: “However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.”
(This post has been updated from an earlier version.)