"Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson and his family are being "hung out to dry" by A&E because the cable network's executives grew weary of the family advocating their strong Christian beliefs, a source close to the Robertsons said.
"You have to ask yourself why this interview happened and why it ever became public," said the source, who asked not to be named, the Daily Mail reports
. "Someone from A&E was there and was aware of the kind of answers Phil was giving.
"But despite that, they didn’t ever try to stop it or control it," the source said. "Instead, they let it hit the headlines and then released a statement condemning it.
"It is our belief that they knew what was going to happen and then used the situation to exercise control over Phil," the source added.
Robertson, the 67-year-old patriarch, was suspended indefinitely by A&E after he shared his views on homosexuality in an interview with GQ magazine
in its January issue.
When asked what he considered sinful behavior, Robertson said: “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.”
He then paraphrased I Corinthians 6:9 from the New Testament: “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. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
A&E quickly removed Robertson from the filming of the show's fifth season, declaring that his personal views did not represent those of the network
, which has always been "strong supporters of the LGBT community."
While Robertson was being slammed by anti-gay groups and others for his remarks, the A&E move has sparked widespread attacks by conservatives and Republican politicians — ranging from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a likely contender for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016.
"Duck Dynasty" — which has as many as 14 million weekly viewers — is shot in rural Louisiana.
Conservative groups have called for a boycott of A&E, a Facebook petition protesting the network's action has garnered more than 14,000 signatures — and "Duck Dynasty" merchandise has been flying off Walmart's digital shelves, with some items listed as out of stock on the retailer's website.
The Robertson family has a retail empire worth $400 million, according to Forbes, with sales from Walmart accounting for about half
Meanwhile, the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store restaurant chain pulled "selected products which we were concerned might offend some of our guests," it said on its Facebook page.
The family warned this week that the show was in danger of being canceled because they could not imagine doing the blockbuster reality show without Robertson.
"We believe in the word of the Bible exactly as it is written and we will call a sin a sin and a sinner a sinner," the family source told the Daily Mail. "But we are all sinners, every one of us, and we believe in redemption and that opening yourself up to Jesus Christ will save you.
"That is what Phil believes and that will not change," the person added. "We are sorry if that has offended anyone, because that was never our intention. We believe in love and truth and that is it."
But regarding the cable show itself, the source said: "It is our understanding that when the TV executives came up with the concept for the show, they wanted it to be a case of people laughing at a bunch of backward rednecks.
"But when it didn’t turn out like that and people actually started identifying with the way the family behaved and were laughing with them, not at them, they became uncomfortable," the person added. "It did not sit well with the New York TV types."
Robertson's insistence that their Christian beliefs be crucial to the show has also roiled A&E officials, the source said.
"We believe they were also uncomfortable with the family’s insistence that there would be a strong religious presence in the show. They knew Phil was the driving force behind this, and we think they have used this situation to bring him in line so they could steer the show back down the path they originally intended for it.
"But they may have underestimated how united the family are and how committed they are to their beliefs," the source said. "They also didn’t realize how much support Phil would get from the public, so things have backfired on them."
The controversy brought divergent responses on Saturday, with the largest group representing LGBT Republicans calling for a "Moonshine Summit" with Robertson and actor Charlie Sheen blasting the patriarch for his remarks.
The Log Cabin Republicans, a Washington-based group founded in 1977, suggested the meeting to work out their differences, Executive Director Gregory Angelo said.
“Let’s put an end to all of the fussing and feuding and talk about this like adults," Angelo said, The Huffington Post reports
. "Phil, you have your views and we have ours, but I think you’d be surprised how much we all have in common — and there’s no better gay folk out there to make that case than Log Cabin Republicans.
"We’re conservative, we’re guided by our faith, and we believe in freedom of speech. Most important, we are all children of God; that’s the most important thing we have in common," Angelo said.
"So in the spirit of the season, let’s get together — your family and ours — raise a glass, and work this out."
Sheen, who has had his own share of controversies in recent years, slammed Robertson on Twitpic
, calling him "mallard-brained" and saying "you have offended and hurt so many dear friends of mine."
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