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A&E reverses decision on 'Duck Dynasty' patriarch



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.

Join the discussion

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c2t2beau December 28 2013 at 9:28 AM

Ducks you should have went to another network......

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1 reply
think2lern c2t2beau December 28 2013 at 9:41 AM

Should have WENT? Really? Try learning to use proper English. It will add a great deal to the value of your opinions!

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Tom December 28 2013 at 9:32 AM

The bottom line is the almighty dollar. One thing networks realize is money. This country has become so enthralled with a television show which by the way I have never seen nor do I want too with a bunch of red necks from Louisiana impersonating as actors. It shows me one thing a great many of these viewers don't have much to do.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
al121858 December 28 2013 at 9:33 AM

Whether people agree or not people are entitled to their opinions.

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1 reply
is5713 al121858 December 28 2013 at 9:39 AM

Well put. It's a 'Reality' show.

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gnosticrick December 28 2013 at 9:38 AM

television is simply a part of the exploitative corporate machine ...and unfortunately it is hypnotizing people by indulging them with the least human qualities in our society ...ignorance, glorified hatred ,dysfunctional family dynamics, and anything else to keep people occupied and not thinking constructively about how to interact and build our nation for generations to come!!!!

Flag Reply +3 rate up
daydayzee December 28 2013 at 9:42 AM

Right is Right. He has a right to his beliefs. You will never in the existence of the world force every single human to believe in the same thing. NEVER ! Get used to it it is fact.

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1 reply
Turbozonk daydayzee December 28 2013 at 9:46 AM

exactly

Flag Reply 0 rate up
usathought December 28 2013 at 9:43 AM

God Bless Duck Dynasty and The ENTIRE Robertson Family

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2 replies
redwms47 usathought December 28 2013 at 9:59 AM

right on

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redwms47 usathought December 28 2013 at 9:59 AM

right on

Flag Reply 0 rate up
cwinfield625 December 28 2013 at 9:44 AM

Freedom of speech. That all.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
hatterlitehouse December 28 2013 at 9:46 AM

Reality shows have gotten out of hand from families like Duke Dynasty, Kardashians, to Honey BooBoo. Sadly normal people do not live or behave like the families seen here and no one should ever feel they have to protect these over paid people. Recently, Willy even stated that this was a way to make a lot of money, so they over act everything to the extreme. This is not entertainment at its best. Everyone has a right to watch or not watch, make your decisions and move on.

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1 reply
Sandy hatterlitehouse December 28 2013 at 9:52 AM

It's Duck Dynasty.... not the Dukes of Hazzard. TV has sunk to a level never seen before. There are more crappy reality shows on TV than anyone could possibly watch. Why? Because many of them make money. And TV executives are not very creative. If it sells, duplicate it!

Flag Reply +3 rate up
Freddie December 28 2013 at 9:57 AM

Regardless of what anyone thinks about Gays, Guns, Religion, etc....this was strictly an economic decision. A&E realized they had just cut off the hand that was feeding them. I posted when it happened it wouldn't last long because there were many networks in line to sign up the "Ducks" family....and the big viewership & big bucks ads they commanded. A&E was lucky to get them back....

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jeff4570 December 28 2013 at 9:57 AM

If they started off by actually reading what he said in the proper context , then the big hoopla would never occur . But the News media and A&E have less balls than brains and give in to the paranoid groups that read deeper into peoples minds .

Flag Reply +4 rate up
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