WEST MONROE, La. (CBS Houston/AP) – When the A&E network suspended “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson for disparaging gay people, it may have followed a time-honored TV tradition of quickly silencing a star who, for better or worse, speaks his mind. But in doing so it also ruffled the feathers of possibly millions of fans of its most popular show.
Fourteen hours after it was learned that Robertson had been placed on indefinite “hiatus” for telling GQ magazine, among other things, that gays are headed to hell, more than a half-million people liked an impromptu Facebook page demanding the show be boycotted until he returns.
In addition to support from fans on social networking sites, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin – who had her picture taken with Robertson just last month – publicly complained that his free-speech rights were being trampled.
As it turns out, however, Palin is not familiar with the specifics of what Robertson said.
During a televised interview, Palin confessed that she wasn’t sure exactly what Robertson has told GQ in regards to homosexuals, Politico is reporting.
“I haven’t read the article,” she was quoted as saying to Greta Van Susteren of Fox News. “I don’t know exactly how he said it.”
Despite reportedly not being familiar with what Robertson had to say, Palin also recently posted a picture on her Facebook page of her with the reality show clan with the message, “Free Speech is an endangered species.”
Controversy was sparked when Robertson, after being asked for his definition of sinful behavior by GQ, replied, “Start with homosexual behavior and just go from there.”
Then he continued, “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers — they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
He also made claims that black people were happier in the time of Jim Crow laws and before the civil rights movement that peaked in the 1960s.
“Duck Dynasty” is on hiatus until Jan. 15, and a network spokesman said Thursday that nine of next season’s 10 episodes have already been filmed.
The Robertson family released a statement on the Duck Commander website (http://bit.ly/1c5vI5G ) Thursday evening in which they expressed thanks for prayers and support. The statement said though some of Robertson’s comments were coarse, “his beliefs are grounded” in the Bible and he “is a Godly man.”
“We are disappointed that Phil has been placed on hiatus for expressing his faith,” the statement said. “We have had a successful working relationship with A&E but as a family, we cannot imagine the show going forward without our patriarch at the helm. We are in discussions with A&E to see what that means for the future of Duck Dynasty.”
“Duck Dynasty” is often the highest-rated cable show on television, and an episode last August that drew nearly 12 million viewers was the highest-rated of any show, cable or broadcast, that week.
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