A&E reverses decision on 'Duck Dynasty' patriarch

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A&E reverses decision on 'Duck Dynasty' patriarch
Korie Robertson, left, and Willie Robertson from "Duck Dynasty" arrive at the 50th annual Academy of Country Music Awards at AT&T Stadium on Sunday, April 19, 2015, in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP)
ABC NEWS SPECIAL - BARBARA WALTERS PRESENTS: THE 10 MOST FASCINATING PEOPLE OF THE YEAR, a new 90-minute special highlighting some of the years most prominent names in entertainment and pop culture, will air WEDNESDAY, DEC. 18 (9:30-11:00 pm, ET), on the ABC Television Network. After its beginning 20 years ago, this Special will be the final Most Fascinating People Special from Ms. Walters. The Number 1 most fascinating person will be announced on the program. (Photo by Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images) THE ROBERTSON FAMILY, CAST OF DUCK DYNASTY, BARBARA WALTERS
Duck Dynasty's Korie Robertson, Willie Robertson, Si Robertson and Jase Robertson during the Star-Spangled Banner before the rain delayed NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Sunday, April 6, 2014. (AP Photo/Mike Stone)
Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson speaks during a rally opposing the Iran nuclear deal outside the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
From left, Phil Robertson, Si Robertson, and Jase Robertson in "Duck Dynasty."
From left, Jep Robertson, Si Robertson, and Willie Robertson, from the A&E series "Duck Dynasty," at the Sherri Hill Fashion Show, Monday, Sept. 9, 2013, in New York. The Robertsons attended to support Willie's daughter Sadie Robertson who modeled several outfits for the show. (AP Photo/Starpix, Marion Curtis)
Miss Kay Robertson, left, and Phil Robertson renewing their vows in a scene from the the season 4 premiere of "Duck Dynasty."
Willie Robertson, left, and his wife Korie Robertson in a scene from "Duck Dynasty."
Phil Robertson from the popular series "Duck Dynasty." Robertson was suspended last week for disparaging comments he made to GQ magazine about gay people. (AP Photo/A&E, Zach Dilgard)
From left, Phil Robertson, Jase Robertson, Si Robertson and Willie Robertson.
Phil Robertson, flanked by his sons Jase Robertson, left, and Willie Robertson. (AP Photo/A&E, Zach Dilgard)
Phil Robertson leaves the White's Ferry Road Church of Christ in West Monroe, La. on Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
 Phil Robertson and his catchphrase "Happy, Happy, Happy" displayed at the Duck Commander store in West Monroe, La. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
87th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade In New York City. © 2013 cast of A&E's Duck Dynasty © Bruce Cotler/Globe Photos/ZUMAPRESS.com/Alamy Live News
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 20: Jessica Robertson (L) and Jep Robertson of Duck Dynasty attend the iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 20, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Clear Channel)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 28: TV personalities Silas Merritt 'Si' Robertson, WIllie Robertson and Jep Robertson of Duck Dynasty attend the 87th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade on November 28, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Pont/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 09: The cast of 'Duck Dynasty' Si Robertson, Jep Robertson and Willie Robertson visit 'Fox And Friends' at Fox News Studios on September 9, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 08: (L-R) Jessica Robertson, Jep Robertson, Korie Robertson, Willie Robertson of 'Duck Dynasty' and musician Tim McGraw speak onstage during Tim McGraw's Superstar Summer Night presented by the Academy of Country Music at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 8, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Kevin Winter/ACMA2013/Getty Images for ACM)
"Duck Dynasty" cast members Jep Robertson and wife Jessica Robertson attend the A+E Networks 2013 Upfront on Wednesday, May 8, 2013 in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
ABC NEWS SPECIAL - BARBARA WALTERS PRESENTS: THE 10 MOST FASCINATING PEOPLE OF THE YEAR, a new 90-minute special highlighting some of the years most prominent names in entertainment and pop culture, will air WEDNESDAY, DEC. 18 (9:30-11:00 pm, ET), on the ABC Television Network. After its beginning 20 years ago, this Special will be the final Most Fascinating People Special from Ms. Walters. The Number 1 most fascinating person will be announced on the program. (Photo by Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images) THE ROBERTSON FAMILY, CAST OF DUCK DYNASTY, BARBARA WALTERS
NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 06: The cast of Duck Dynasty speaks onstage during the 47th annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on November 6, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images)
Duck Dynasty's Willie Robertson, Si Robertson and Jase Robertson before the rain delayed NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Sunday, April 6, 2014. (AP Photo/Mike Stone)
'Duck Dynasty' reality TV celebrity Jase Robertson watches in the second half of an NCAA college football game between LSU and Mississippi in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014. LSU won 10-7. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)
Willie Robertson from the TV show Duck Dynasty walks on the field before before an NCAA college football game between LSU and Florida in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
The Duck Dynasty clan looks on during the national anthem before the rain delayed start to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Sunday, April 6, 2014. (AP Photo/Ralph Lauer)
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By LYNN ELBER

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A&E landed in the middle of America's culture wars when "Duck Dynasty" patriarch Phil Robertson sounded off on gays and the Bible. The channel quickly found there was no safe ground.

It was pilloried for allowing a man who equated gays with hell-bound sinners like adulterers to have a national TV stage. Then it was excoriated for giving him the hook.

With A&E's decision Friday to bring Robertson back to its most-watched show, it remains to be seen if it can mend fences with both sides - or at least with those viewers who hold opposing views.

The channel's interest is in ratings and revenue, not refereeing social discord.

Will those who called for an A&E boycott unless Robertson returned be satisfied? Will "Duck Dynasty" fans who enjoy the Louisiana duck call-making family but were offended by Robertson's comments watch again?

The family itself, which had threatened to withdraw if Phil wasn't welcomed back, didn't rush out with its own make-nice reaction Friday. The gay right group GLAAD, which had slammed Robertson's comments to GQ magazine, issued a critical statement despite A&E's vague allusion to the support of "numerous advocacy groups" for its reversal.

"If dialogue with Phil is not part of (the) next steps, then A&E has chosen profits over African-American and gay people - especially its employees and viewers," GLAAD said, referring to Robertson's remark to GQ that he didn't know any unhappy blacks in the pre-Civil Rights era South.

A&E said it intended to air a national public service campaign "promoting unity, tolerance and acceptance among all people."

Randy Schmidt, a "Duck Dynasty" viewer in Illinois, said he's glad to see Robertson back on the show that Schmidt admires for its "Christian values."

Although he didn't care for Robertson's comments he has a right to express his opinions, Schmidt said. He added that he's likely not the only one pleased about Robertson's return.

"A&E's pocketbook will be happy, too," Schmidt predicted.

Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council in Washington, wasn't among those calling for a boycott but said A&E could have suffered without its "about-face."

"We're seeing play out in front of us this great clash of cultures. Those in Hollywood don't quite understand the values that for many of these people - and I put myself in that category - our values and faith are non-negotiable," Perkins said.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who had said that Miley Cyrus got a pass for twerking on TV while Phil got shown the door, lauded A&E for putting tolerance for religious views above "political correctness."

Other shows have weathered their outspoken talent by simply bouncing them or not blocking their departure: Think Isaiah Washington on "Grey's Anatomy," fired in 2007 for referring to one of his show's gay actors with a pejorative, or Alec Baldwin exiting his new MSNBC talk show after using gay slurs off the air.

But A&E found that easy road blocked for a reality show celebrity who was too real for some, just right for others.

Within a day of Robertson's removal, more than a half-million people liked an impromptu Facebook page demanding A&E be boycotted until he returns. A petition calling for A&E to bring him back reached 250,000 signatures and counting in about a week.

The controversy similarly ensnared the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain, which removed "Duck Dynasty"-related merchandise from its shelves and then reversed course and apologized after being hit with complaints.

While TV ratings tend to fluctuate, particularly during the holidays when viewing drops, the overall A&E audience was smaller after it landed in "Duck" soup than before.

For the week of Dec. 16-22, the channel averaged 1.5 million viewers, compared to 2 million for the week before, according to Nielsen figures.

During the week of Dec. 17-23 last year, a roughly comparable period to the post-Robertson flap week, the channel averaged 1.73 million viewers.

"Duck Dynasty" is the channel's highest-rated program and set a reality show record for cable with nearly 12 million viewers for its fourth-season debut this past summer.

Last week, the family said in a statement on its Duck Commander website (http://bit.ly/1c5vI5G ) that although some of Phil Robertson's comments were coarse, "his beliefs are grounded" in the Bible and he "is a Godly man." They also said that "as a family, we cannot imagine the show going forward without our patriarch at the helm."

"Duck Dynasty" is on hiatus until Jan. 15, and the network has said that nine of next season's 10 episodes have already been filmed. That means Robertson likely wasn't needed in front of the camera before next March.

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