By Cathy Burke
The bearded 67-year-old patriarch of the Louisiana family was yanked from the hit show Dec. 18 after he gave an interview to GQ magazine in which he aired his religious objections to homosexuality, likening it to “bestiality.”
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The interview set off howls of protests from activist groups including GLAAD, the gay media watch organization, but Robertson’s abrupt suspension triggered an equally fierce backlash from “Duck Dynasty” fans — and conservative politicians such as Sarah Palin — who pointed out Robertson’s beliefs were consistent with the Bible and shared by many Americans.
An Alabama lawmaker even announced he’d introduce a resolution in support of the beleaguered reality star.
“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 in a statement. “Today is a good day for the freedoms of speech and religious liberty.”
But the Rev. Jesse Jackson said Friday that despite A&E Network‘s decision to end the suspension of Phil Robertson for his insensitive remarks about gays and African Americans, the “Duck Dynasty” star needs to be “more repentant and contrite.”
“Mr. Robertson’s language was hurtful and painful to many people … [and] he’s been unrepentant,” Jackson told “The Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV.
“When people make mistakes, and people do make mistakes, you should be repentant and contrite and then seek forgiveness.”
In its statement reported by The Hollywood Reporter, which first broke the news of the suspension’s lifting, A&E said “a strong sense of integrity and deep commitment to… principals” prompted its quick reaction to the Robertson interview in GQ.
“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,” the statement said.
“He also made it clear he would ‘never incite or encourage hate.'”
Though A&E reiterated that it didn’t agree with Robertson’s views, it conceded itslucrative hit “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,” the network said, calling the family a group that comes “together to reflect and pray for unity, tolerance and forgiveness” and saying those are values the network also feels “strongly about.”
The network said it had talks with Robertson’s family as well as with “numerous advocacy groups” before lifting its suspension.
“A&E has decided to resume filming Duck Dynasty later this spring with the entire Robertson family,” it declared.
It also said it’ll “use this moment to launch a national public service campaign … 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.”
Since Robertson didn’t miss any filming during his suspension, the so-caled hiatus had zero effect on the upcoming fifth season, The Hollywood Reporter noted.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report
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