Don't 'Duck' free speech

Reality-show star sticks to his beliefs, and a TV network punishes him for it

Free speech seems nearly dead, and political correctness is killing it. Look no further than Phil Robertson, the wildly popular star of the runaway hit reality show Duck Dynasty.

In an interview in the January edition of GQ magazine, Robertson – who never has made his Christian values a secret – emphasized his belief that homosexuality is sinful.

The cable network A&E, which broadcasts Duck Dynasty, said in a statement that Robertson’s views do not reflect those of the network. “The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely,” A&E said in a news release.

The people who suspended Robertson for his biblically based views have insulted a good portion of the show’s fan base, and this country. Basically, mainstream media are trying to outlaw conservatism and Christian beliefs. How sad and frightening that, if you don’t heel to the media’s views of morality, you can be ostracized, punished, suspended or fired.

Cable networks that enrich themselves through reality shows love nothing more than to exploit quirky, down-home folks for a quick buck. Then, at the slightest whiff of embarrassment, networks want to censor their stars’ belief systems.

Sorry, TV execs – you can’t have it both ways. By making a TV show out of the Robertson family, you bought a ticket into their lives. Now you have to take the ride. Shame on A&E for exploiting this family and then stabbing them in the back at the first sign of trouble.

A&E’s hypocrisy is gigantic. How many hundreds of hours of footage do you think the network has filmed of Robertson espousing similar beliefs? But that footage likely fell to the cutting-room floor in favor of the “reality” the show’s producers wanted to sculpt.

Now Robertson’s views emerge unfiltered, and suddenly A&E is shocked? We’re not buying that for a second.

There is a growing backlash to all this, and A&E – if it doesn’t already – will sorely regret it ever happened.

The fourth-season premiere of Duck Dynasty drew more than 11 million viewers, making it the most-watched nonfiction cable TV episode ever. The Robertson family, self-made millionaires in their own right, can survive perfectly fine without A&E – and, after this controversy, maybe even flourish further.

Could A&E say the same if it’s without the Robertsons?

Perhaps that’s why the network left its admonition of Phil Robertson as an open-ended suspension from the show “indefinitely.” Newsday TV critic Verne Gay has pointed out that the word “indefinitely” is meaningless – one week? One year? Also, it gives A&E the open-ended opportunity to grovel back to its biggest cash cow after it realizes that it’s alienated a huge chunk of its viewership.

“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,” the Robertson family said in a statement Thursday, posted on the duckcommander.com website. “We are in discussions with A&E to see what that means for the future of Duck Dynasty.”

This is not over.

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