Conservative groups declared victory on the "Duck Dynasty" controversy on Friday and hailed the quick reinstatement of patriarch Phil Robertson — less than two weeks after he was yanked from the A&E hit show for anti-gay remarks.
Louisiana's Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal called the network's decision a victory for “the freedoms of speech and religious liberty," the Daily Caller reported.
The reality series is filmed in Louisiana, where the Robertsons live, and Jindal was a vocal critic of A&E's decision to suspend the family elder Dec. 18 after an explosive GQ magazine interview in which the 67-year-old patriarch compared homosexuality with bestiality.
"I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment," the Republican governor said
at the time. "The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with."
On Friday, he released a statement saying he was pleased with the reversal.
“I am glad to hear that the folks at A&E came to their senses and recognized that tolerance of religious views is more important than political correctness,” he said. “Today is a good day for the freedoms of speech and religious liberty.”
“The left is going to have to get accustomed to the fact that it does not have a monopoly on free speech and is not the only group who is permitted to voice its opinion in the public square. The left may control Hollywood, but they don’t control the hearts and minds of a majority of Americans.”
Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, also applauded the decision, but noted the network announced its decision late on the Friday between the Christmas and New Year's holidays. "Better late than never," Reed said.
"A&E Networks belatedly came to their senses," he said in an e-mailed statement. "Their rash suspension of Mr. Robertson threatened to destroy the most valuable franchise on cable television and alienate 40 million evangelical Christians in the process. While Mr. Robertson used some admittedly ill-advised language in the interview, he said nothing that justified this punishment. He simply quoted the Bible in answering a question about his faith."
Reed said he hoped "the network will never again take the bizarre step of sanctioning someone for expressing their Christian faith."
Organizers of a petition started by Christian fans, IStandWithPhil.com, were wary of the reinstatement, The Hollywood Reporter said
“Despite our celebration, we remain uncertain of A&E's true intent," said a statement from Faith Drive Consumer founder Chris Stone, according to the Reporter. "Today, in the network’s statement of their core values – centered on ‘creativity, inclusion, and mutual respect’ -- Faith Driven Consumers are left wondering whether A&E considers us to be a part of America's rich rainbow of diversity. Do they also now embrace the biblically based values and worldview held by the Robertson family and millions of Faith Driven Consumers?"
GLAAD, however, was not appeased.
In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter
the pro-gay rights group said "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."
"Phil Robertson should look African American and gay people in the eyes and hear about the hurtful impact of praising Jim Crow laws and comparing gay people to terrorists," the statement said.
Meanwhile, Politico reported
Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz lauded the news with a tweet of the Drudge Report's home page splash:
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who also rushed to Robertson's defense
after his suspension, did not post any immediate reaction to the reinstatement.
Meanwhile, The Hollywood Reporter, which first reported
the network's change-of-heart, noted the bearded clan recently re-signed to stay on at the top-rated series in a deal worth more than $200,000 per episode.
The hit is a big asset for the network, the Reporter noted; it's second in popularity on all cable channels only to "The Walking Dead," with an average 13.4 million viewers, and it's gear is sold by
retailers including Walmart, Sears and Cracker Barrel restaurants.
The Robertson family is off during duck hunting season, which the Reporter noted was a contractual stipulation, through Jan. 26.
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