Outrage at the indefinite suspension of "Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson was growing Thursday with politicians joining the fray amid a call for a boycott of the cable network that made the decision.
Robertson was canned Wednesday by the A&E Network after a magazine interview was published in which he compared homosexuality to having sex with animals.
But within hours, he was receiving support from conservatives who expressed their belief in Robertson's freedom to speak his mind.
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Leading the fray was Bobby Jindal, the Republican governor of Louisiana where "Duck Dynasty" is filmed.
"Phil Robertson and his family are great citizens of the state of Louisiana," Jindal said on the official website
of the governor's office. "The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with."
"I don't agree with quite a bit of stuff I read in magazine interviews or see on TV. In fact, come to think of it, I find a good bit of it offensive," Jindal added. "But I also acknowledge that this is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views. In fact, I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment."
Jindal called it a "messed up situation" when people laugh off the controversial sexualized antics of twerking singer Miley Cyrus while someone like Robertson is put on hiatus indefinitely. Cyrus outraged millions of Americans during an awards show when she did a twerking dance routine with pop singer Robin Thicke. Although her performance was lambasted at first, she won plaudits from her peers and even became one of the 10 finalists for Time's Person of the Year award.
Jindal was joined by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who said, "The reason that so many Americans love 'Duck Dynasty' is because it represents the America usually ignored or mocked by liberal elites: a family that loves and cares for each other, believes in God, and speaks openly about their faith."
"If you believe in free speech or religious liberty, you should be deeply dismayed over the treatment of Phil Robertson," Cruz added. "Phil expressed his personal views and his own religious faith; for that, he was suspended from his job. In a free society, anyone is free to disagree with him — but the mainstream media should not behave as the thought police, censoring the views with which they disagree."
Rep. Markwayne Mullin also weighed in. "America is currently witnessing a contradiction in its core principles," he said in a statement to Newsmax.
"The fundamentals that founded our great nation included the freedom of speech and religion. Unfortunately a man who simply voiced his religious belief, which is protected by our Constitution, is now being punished," the Oklahoma Republican said.
"The Robertson family is standing up for what they believe, and our fundamental, core principles of this nation clearly protect them. I support their rights and their view of traditional marriage that is between a man and a woman," Mullin said.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin went on Facebook
to voice her concern that his TV ban was an attack on freedom of speech. "Free speech is an endangered species," she wrote next to a photo of herself with the cast of the show. "Those 'intolerants' hatin' and taking on the Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing his personal opinion are taking on all of us."
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, also got involved. "Suggesting that people who hold to what every branch of the Christian faith has held to for 2,000 years is somehow bigoted or hateful is not productive for speech," he said on CNN.
On Fox News, hosts also stood up in support of Robertson. Sean Hannity said it is a "slippery slope" when people are punished for their beliefs. His colleague Megyn Kelly asked, "Why can't there be a debate about it? Why can't there be a discussion … instead of 'you are fired.'"
As the political debate raged, a Twitter account
calling for a boycott of A&E had attracted more than 10,000 followers by early Thursday afternoon.
The controversy started when family patriarch Robertson, 67, made controversial comments in a recent GQ magazine
article labeling homosexuality a sin and comparing it to bestiality, among other things.
Asked what he considered sinful, Robertson told the magazine, "Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there — bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men."
Calling himself a Bible-thumper and paraphrasing Corinthians, he added: "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."
In a statement, A&E, which has placed Robertson on an indefinite leave from filming, said, "We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson's comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty."
In remarks Wednesday defending himself, Robertson admitted to leading what he described as a debauched rock-and-roll lifestyle of sex and drugs during the 1960s, but said he had turned his life around after he embraced Jesus Christ.
According to Fox News, he might have dug himself a deeper hole
among gay activists by adding, "My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the Bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together."
The gay rights organization GLAAD praised A&E
for reacting quickly to Robertson's comments that push "vile and extreme stereotypes."
"What's clear is that such hateful anti-gay comments are unacceptable to fans, viewers, and networks alike," said GLAAD spokesman Wilson Cruz. "By taking quick action and removing Robertson from future filming, A&E has sent a strong message that discrimination is neither a Christian nor an American value."
"Duck Dynasty," which drew 11.8 million viewers when its Season 4 premiered in August, will return for its fifth season Jan. 15. Despite his suspension, Robertson is expected to appear in many episodes.
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