After an “indefinite hiatus” that amounted to little more than a coffee break, A&E has reinstated Phil Robertson to its top-rated “Duck Dynasty” series and will begin filming this spring.
Following a news dump at the end of last week, CNN commentator Will Cain said that A&E will “pay no price” for its decision to reinstate Robertson, and that they’ve gained a month of marketing for the show.
But Variety’s Brian Lowry said, “once A&E decided to do more than simply say ‘We do not share Phil’s views,’ there was almost no way to escape this mess without winding up with egg on its face.”
The New York Times’ Bill Carter observed, “A&E released a statement, noteworthy both for its concessions to the Robertson family’s refusal to accept the suspension as well as its timing — at close of business on Friday of a holiday weekend on the slowest week of the year in the entertainment business.”
In case you haven’t been following closely, just take a look at A&E’s excruciatingly carefully worded statement, contained in a link here to The Hollywood Reporter.
You have to love the people who write these things. Heaven knows the substances and sleepless nights that went into crafting a statement like this.
For example, the artfully turned phrase about Robertson’s GQspouting, claiming ”misinterpretation of his core beliefs based only on the article.” Gosh golly, those sounded like core beliefs to me, spoken straight from the hip—er, heart. Has Commander Phil ever articulated what his core beliefs are? Or does he just shoot off his mouth first and answer questions later? Given his redneck provenance, I suspect the latter.
As for A&E’s characterizing the camo caperers as, “a family America has come to love,” I am certain they’re the same Americans who love Fox, and Limbaugh, and Hannity, and all the other motor-mouths who spew Christian or conservative talking points without respite.
So maybe A&E won’t pay a price, but co-owner ABC and its parent company, Disney, just might--eventually. Because once you countenance homophobia and bigotry, you are already well down the proverbial slippery slope, and it’s a black diamond run.
Imagine Tony Perkins and his Family Research Council army of zealots camped out in front of Disney World, demanding that gays be purged from the staff because their sinful lifestyle is a threat to families and the American way of life.
Can’t imagine something like that, you say? Too farfetched, you say? Remember the 1993 Baby Jessica case in Iowa, when groups called for a boycott of Maytag washers because they were manufactured in Newton, Iowa? Maytag moved its manufacturing operations to Mexico.
As much as I disagreed with NBC’s decision to take Don Imus off the air after his offhanded slur about the Rutgers’ women’s basketball team, I believe that NBC recognized the fundamental principle that you can’t tolerate intolerance and acted on it.
Despite the protestations of the Duck Nation and creepily ambitious politicians like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, there is no legitimate freedom of speech or religious expression issue here. What it boils down to is standards and judgment, and A&E has demonstrated it possesses neither.
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Bill Huey is president of Strategic Communications, a corporate communications and marketing consultancy, and author of "Carbon Man," a novel about greed.