After opening a can of worms by suspending Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson over homophobic and racially insensitive comments, A&E is letting him return to the show. Sigh, but not a surprise in many ways.
As has been stated and restated a number of times, Robertson’s beliefs have been public for some time. So A&E’s decision to act on the GQ interview was clearly done out of a fear of bad publicity and an underestimation of how much fans and Sarah Palin are dedicated to it.
It looks like the network is more afraid of Duck Dynasty supporters than those who would be offended by Robertson’s comments. So now we have this long, winding statement from the network that works its way up to this third paragraph, when they just throw a load of crap out there:
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.
You can almost hear the swell of dramatic music in that paragraph.
Long story short, the whole clan will be back to film in the spring and there’s going to be a PSA about “promoting unity, tolerance and acceptance.” Presumably the Duck Dynasty stars will be a part of this, but that’s not stated explicitly. And if they kick up a stink, they can probably get out of that too.
If A&E really wanted to take on the issues that arose from Robertson’s interview, it would’ve required more thought about what it would mean to take on the stars of one of the most popular shows on television, even when that show airs on its own network. (Walt Disney Corp. and Hearst also have a stake in the company.) Strength of conviction and a willingness to stand up for what’s right even if there are some negative consequences are prerequisites. The PSA tacked on to the end just seems like lip service.
GLAAD issued a statement on the issue, which says in part, “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.”
On top of that, it speaks to the integrity of the network and raises questions of whether the public can respect a company that chose money over principle and bowed to fear in the face of backlash. And some conservative groups still aren’t happy. The network will have a hard time earning back the respect it gained for a few fleeting moments when it stood up for what it believed.