I suppose I’ve watched “Duck Dynasty” a couple or three times. It evoked a few chuckles, but otherwise I found little more appeal than the usual run of reality-show tripe on TV these days.
That said, it seems A&E’s aborted suspension of the show’s patriarch, Phil Robertson, was tantamount to killing the goose that lays the network’s golden eggs.
In case you’ve been stuck out in a duck blind incommunicado recently, A&E’s edict was taken as a knee-jerk reaction to an interview Robertson did with GQ magazine in which he quoted – or perhaps paraphrased – Scripture in equating homosexual behavior with sin and expressed perplexity as to how a man could prefer male anatomy to female, among other things. He also cited his experiences from segregation days where he said African-Americans he worked with were “happy” with their situation.
The gay lobby immediately erupted at A&E, which announced Phil Robertson was being suspended from further filming of episodes of “Duck Dynasty,” along with a disclaimer that the published remarks did not reflect the network’s unwavering support of the gay community.
Then the Rev. Jesse Jackson weighed in, comparing Robertson unfavorably with Rosa Parks’ bus driver. Really? No word on whether the network returned his call.
Cracker Barrel appeared to be climbing on the bandwagon, announcing it was pulling some of the Duck Dynasty merchandise off its shelves. That was before the duck droppings hit the fan as legions of Robertson backers voiced support of the family’s patriarch and threatened a boycott. Cracker Barrel abruptly reversed its field, putting the merchandise back on sale and issuing an apology. Know your clientele.
Good advice for A&E also. “Duck Dynasty” gained considerable support over the years, not necessarily from rednecks but from viewers pleased with the family’s overtly religious stance. They deplored the idea of A&E trying to deny Robertson’s freedom of speech.
A number of things emerged from this controversy. First, freedom of speech applies to the public forum, not the employment venue. Second, political correctness expects public statements to agree with the desired point of view. Third, people can no longer disagree in a civil manner; either one’s chosen lifestyle is fully embraced or you are expressing outright hatred. Remember Paula Deen?
Faced with hundreds of thousands of protests and calls for boycotts, A&E weaseled its way out of the crisis by taking Robertson’s vow he would “never incite or encourage hate” as an unapologetic apology and reinstating him for future filming.
It was the only practical course available, given the family’s veiled threat to walk, contractual obligations notwithstanding. Cancellation of the show would cost the network its most popular program. And the Robertsons certainly don’t need the money.
So the next time the family sits down on camera to a duck dinner, Phil Robertson will be asking the blessing as usual. And the folks at A&E will be devouring a large helping of crow.
Jim Bailey’s column appears on Thursday. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.