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'Duck Dynasty' Drama: Battle Lines Drawn Over Phil Robertson Suspension

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Phil Robertson (Paul Drinkwater/NBC)

A lot can happen in 24 hours. Exhibit A: On Wednesday, GQ released some rather blunt remarks Phil Robertson made on the topic of homosexuality. When asked about his definition of sin, the reality star said, "Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there — bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men."

Less than two hours later, as news of these remarks spread like wildfire, prompting the "Duck Dynasty" star to clarify his statements.

"I myself am a product of the '60s; I centered my life around sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll until I hit rock bottom and accepted Jesus as my Savior," he said in a statement issued by A&E on Wednesday. "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. 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."

But that softening of language wasn't enough to prevent fallout for the duck-hunting father of four, and later that same afternoon, A&E suspended Phil from filming.

[Related: Phil Robertson Digs Deeper Hole With African-American Statements]

"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 stated."His personal views in no way reflect those of A&E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely."

GLAAD — which had released a statement in response to Robertson's original comments urging A&E "to reexamine their ties with someone with such public disdain for LGBT people and their families" (and which also contained a thinly veiled boycott threat) — wasted no time in praising the network's action.

"What’s clear is that such hateful anti-gay comments are unacceptable to fans, viewers, and networks alike," stated GLAAD spokesman Wilson Cruz. "By taking quick action and removing Robertson from future filming, A&E has sent a strong message that discrimination is neither a Christian nor an American value."

[Related: How 'Duck Dynasty' Became Such a Huge Hit]

Piers Morgan also took to Twitter to share his feelings about both Robertson's comments and those who are defending them on the basis of freedom of speech.

Lance Bass took a decidedly more lighthearted approach in his reaction to the story:

But not everyone agrees with A&E's swift decision. Sarah Palin took to Twitter to support her friend.

And she isn't the only political figure who has Phil's back. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz challenged the network's suspension of the reality star.

Fox News host Sean Hannity devoted a chunk of his show to ripping the decision and urged fans both on air and via his Twitter to email and call A&E executives to support Robertson. That prompted dozens of angry responses targeting the network.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal took to his website to express his displeasure with the network as well. "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," he wrote before adding, "It is a messed up situation where Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended."

The conservative site RedState agreed. "A&E has now joined much of mass market culture in the Western World in picking sides in a fight — tolerance for gay rights, but not for Christians expressing honest answers to questions asked of their faith," editor Erick Erickson shared. "They have clearly aligned themselves against us in the culture wars."

And, according to the site, this battle begins now. "The world is at war with Christ and those who put their faith in Christ. The silver lining of this act is that many Christians who decided they could sit on the sidelines and not have to care will have a wake up call," Erickson announced. "You will be made to care. You will not be given the option of silence or the sidelines."

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Phil Robertson in A&E's "Duck Dynasty" Christmas Special.

Erickson hasn't had to wait long to rally the troops, however, because many of the show's fans have already boldly declared their support for Robertson and his original (unedited) remarks.

"Obviously GLAAD doesn't know, and certainly doesn't want to know, anything about the Bible," Yahoo user Gidmawmaw wrote. "Phil did not spew hate toward any homosexual, just the sin (and yes, it is) of homosexuality. Did the people who wrote this article even listen to what he said? I think not, because they have an agenda that is filled with more hate than the Christians they blast with their talk of human rights and tolerance. Tolerance has two sides. And by the way, it wasn't 'sin according to Phil,' it is sin according to God."

"I don't think Phil has anything to apologize or be repentant for," user Doug echoed. "He was asked for his opinion and he gave it. I'm sick of the GLADD folks and other gay groups force feeding the American people that there deviant lifestyle is normal and SHOULD be accepted, disregarding our beliefs if we don't agree with them. I don't care if they want to be gay, go on and do it and leave me alone, I don't want to hear about your choices anymore."

"If A&E suspends him from the show then my family and I will have one less channel to watch. I guess that means A&E would be suspended from my house just like they suspended Phil from his show," user Howard announced.

Sentiments like these were echoed by the creators of the IStandWithPhil.com petition, which urges A&E to cease its "discriminatory" censorship of Robertson "and to treat people of faith with equality, fairness, and true tolerance."

So, what does all this mean for "Duck Dynasty's" future? Despite Phil's suspension, he will almost certainly appear in season four of the hit show, which wrapped filming a while back and premieres on Jan. 15.

"This is not the kind of controversy they want on this show that's supposed to be about good, God-fearing, hard-working, likeable sorts of folks," Robert Thompson, professor of television and pop culture at Syracuse University, told Yahoo TV. Still, he was quick to add his prediction for the bottom line: "When all is said and done, I cannot imagine that this show is going to take a major hit in the ratings. I think when it comes back, it's probably going to be doing as well as it did before."

While we'll have to wait and see how this all plays out, something tells us that neither Phil's supporters nor his critics (nor the show's viewers) are going anywhere any time soon.

 

 

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