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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Sunday, April 20, 2014

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In Movies & TV Commentary

Kay and Phil Robertson appear regularly on A&E's "Duck Dynasty." (PHOTO: DuckCommander.com)

Reversals made by A&E, Cracker Barrel in "Duck Dynasty" decisions


In the past couple of days, there have been quite a few reversals in regards to Phil Robertson and "Duck Dynasty" on A&E.

A&E seemed to forget its audience when it suspended Robertson for his comments. On Friday, A&E reversed its decision after having talks with the family and the production company.

If you remember back, GQ magazine released a number of comments from the patriarch of the Duck Commander family in advance of a magazine release and the hit show's next season.

"It seems like, to me, a vagina – as a man – would be more desirable than a man's anus. That's just me. I'm just thinking: There's more there! She's got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I'm saying? But hey, sin: It's not logical, my man. It's just not logical," Robertson said in the GQ advance release.

Once this statement and others were reported to A&E, they made the call to suspend Robertson from the show.

"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,'" A&E said in a statement.

"His personal views in no way reflect those of A&E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely."

Then, on Friday, A&E released this statement to the Hollywood Reporter:

"As a global media content company, A&E Networks' core values are centered around creativity, inclusion and mutual respect. We believe it is a privilege for our brands to be invited into people's homes, and we operate with a strong sense of integrity and deep commitment to these principles.

"That is why we reacted so quickly and strongly to a recent interview with Phil Robertson. While Phil's comments made in the interview reflect his personal views based on his own beliefs and his own personal journey, he and his family have publicly stated they regret the "coarse language" he used and the misinterpretation of his core beliefs based only on the article. He also made it clear he would "never incite or encourage hate." We at A&E Networks expressed our disappointment with his statements in the article and reiterate that they are not views we hold.

"But 'Duck Dynasty' is not a show about one man's views. It resonates with a large audience because it is a show about family … a family that America has come to love. As you might have seen in many episodes, they come together to reflect and pray for unity, tolerance and forgiveness. These are three values that we at A&E Networks also feel strongly about.

"So after discussions with the Robertson family, as well as consulting with numerous advocacy groups, A&E has decided to resume filming 'Duck Dynasty' later this spring with the entire Robertson family.

"We will also use this moment to launch a national public service campaign (PSA) promoting unity, tolerance and acceptance among all people, a message that supports our core values as a company and the values found in 'Duck Dynasty.' These PSAs will air across our entire portfolio."

I've mentioned this before, that this incident revealed a larger issue with reality shows in general. When the program is so focused in on a group of individuals, the network airing the show is taking a gamble with whoever it promotes on its own platform and outside of it.

Many people considered this case to be a "Freedom of Speech" case, however that argument didn't fit. Robertson has the right to his opinion and has the freedom to say it. His rights were not encroached on, allowing him to make his comments.

However, when comments are made, there is a responsibility by the person who makes them to deal with the consequences. Which here, could have been his employer suspending him.

Another consequence of his actions was that the TV show-inspired merchandise was pulled off the store shelves in Cracker Barrel restaurants.

The chain reversed its decision and put the t-shirts and other items back on the shelves.

"When we made the decision to remove and evaluate certain Duck Dynasty items, we offended many of our loyal customers. Our intent was to avoid offending, but that's just what we've done," Cracker Barrel posted on its Facebook page.

"You flat out told us we were wrong. We listened."

You can find out more on the story as the group behind "Duck Dynasty" petition reacts to A&E's reversal.


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