Perhaps the first question is why GQ magazine was interviewing Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson.

After all, GQ describes itself as “the definitive men’s magazine with style advice and tips.”  The down-home, born-again, duck-call maker hardly fits between features on Bradley Cooper and Denzel Washington.

But Robertson and Duck Dynasty are white hot.

It’s the most popular nonfiction cable show ever.  Forbes magazine reported last month that “By the end of 2013, Duck Dynasty product tie-ins will have raked in a massive $400 million in revenues, according to industry sources.”

I suspect GQ, like everyone else, was trying to cash in. And it was in the now-infamous magazine interview that Robertson went verbal commando on a variety of subjects, including homosexuality and race relations.

On gay sex, Robertson stated that he believes homosexuality is a sin (a view shared by 41 percent of Americans, according to Gallup) and he opined graphically on gay versus straight sex.

On race, Robertson said that growing up as white trash (his words), he worked the fields with blacks in Louisiana.  “We’re going across the field… they’re singing and happy. Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

His wistful description of the Old South is a simplified caricature.  It’s inaccurate, but likely not uncommon among whites of a certain age—Robertson is 67—who came of age prior to the civil rights movement.

A&E Network suspended Robertson indefinitely, saying it’s “extremely disappointed” in his comments.  Notably, the Duck Dynasty marathons scheduled for last night, this weekend and on Christmas Day are still on the network’s broadcast schedule.

Sarah Palin is among those who have come to the defense of Robertson, saying “free speech is an endangered species.”  It’s perfectly appropriate for Palin to support Robertson, but the basis of her argument is flawed; this is not a free speech issue.

The First Amendment provides protection from government action, but not private employers.  Robertson has a right to his opinion, but he does not have a First Amendment right to a TV show.  A&E is within its rights to suspend, discipline or even dismiss an employee whose conduct or comments are deemed offensive.   Any disagreement between Robertson and A&E will be sorted out in court.

Still, there’s something unsettling about the uproar over Robertson’s comments.  This is the Duck Dynasty guy, not the President, the Pope or even the school principal. And he was expressing opinions in an adult magazine, not teaching junior high history or science class.

While not all forms of speech are equally protected by the Constitution, we should still value the marketplace of ideas.  Challenging Robertson on his views makes for a worthwhile discussion.  It would be enlightening for one of those “happy, singing” field hands to give Roberston the other side of the story.

But making him a public pariah, as some want to do, has a chilling effect on the national dialogs on race, homosexuality and all controversial topics in between.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  • Gary Karstens

    A & E made the right move. The gay movement is moving forward whether the backwoods people like it or not.

  • Hillbilly

    What a bunch of hypocrite's . You people should all be ashamed of yourself .

  • Mac

    Free speech aside, I wish that the tolerance I am supposedly demanded to show for the gay community - whose real purpose is to push their agenda in our face continually until ALL of us must accept it - can be reciprocated by the gay community, who go off the deep end and pronounce me as people haters and religious zealots. It is my right (according to the constitution) to "exercise and express my religious beliefs and individual conscience." The key word here is "express" - to speak - and the Bible does pronounce the evils of man. So I won't speak negatively towards the gay community if they in turn won't speak ill of my beliefs of God and Christianity. My rights are as sacred to me as their rights are as sacred to them.

  • Fred

    Hoppy you nail it on the head. I have to watch what I say in my job serving the public.

  • scollin

    I've watched only 2 episodes of DD, but I unfortunately grew up in the same religion as the Robertsons. What disappointed me more than PR's GQ comments (which I do not agree with, but don't surprise me) was the show where he took his granddaughters fishing and proudly bit off the head of a harmless little green snake. Completely uncalled-for, disrespectful, and disgusting. Great white hunter, eh? I am not a fan, but I must admit I do love me some Si.

  • Mac

    Free speech aside, I wish that the tolerance I am supposedly demanded to show for the gay community - whose real purpose is to push their agenda in our face continually until ALL of us must accept it - can be reciprocated by the gay community, who go off the deep end and pronounce me as people haters and religious zealots. It is my right (according to the constitution) to "exercise and express my religious beliefs and individual conscience." The key word here is "express" - to speak - and the Bible does pronounce the evils of man. So I won't speak negatively towards the gay community if they in turn won't speak ill of my beliefs of God and Christianity. My rights are as sacred to me as their rights are as sacred to them.

  • Damon

    What would help would be for the author of this article to provide the link so that people can read the unaltered quotes. When parts are picked through it distorts what he said. As a Black man I have no problem with what he said regarding HIS experiences working alongside other minorities. He never stated or implied that they were happier then. They along with himself were happy because they were working and able to try to provide for their families. Stop with the ... And include the whole context and statement.

  • RB

    Bashir wasn't fired! He resigned. So it sort of sounds like he made his own destiny unlike Alex Baldwin who worked for the same network was fired for saying something that was taking to be as Homophobic comments.

  • HMAALLTHEWAY

    So, how can the Liberal crowd speak whatever they wish about the religious crowd? They can say anything they wish about the Bible and nothing happens to them!
    You know you have the "Real McCoy" when all others try to emulate it! I heard last night some school took all references to Christ out of the song Silent Night! Really?
    This world would not even be celebrating Christmas without Christ!
    Now we have to say Happy Holidays to be PC !
    The bottom line is "let Christ be true and all men be liars"
    This country is in such a downward slide I fear there is no turning back!
    Its hard to believe in just 70 short years our country has forsaken all the moral values it was built on.
    One day all this hogwash will come full circle. God will have the final say and it doesn't matter what any of us think.
    I think there is a boiling point happening here in America, where the many are tired of being told by the few how to live their lives or what is acceptable!

  • West Virginian

    Quack-Quack

  • angry white guy

    The world needs more Robertson families. Honest, strong morals and core values, and an absolute belief in God.

    Merry Christmas everyone. Thank God for the Robertson family.

  • Fed Up

    The Robertson clan should tell A&E to shove it where the sun don't shine and never do another show.
    Then A&E could replace them with the Miley Cyrus show.
    Dumbasses..

  • Fed Up

    The Robertson clan should tell A&E to shove it where the sun don't shine and never do another show.
    Then A&E could replace it with the Miley Cyrus show and see how it works for them. Dumbasses..

  • Brandt Hardin

    A suppose we can put ol’ Phil up on a cross now and stick a spear in him since he’s the new martyr for the Christian Right. Last year, it was the Chick-Fil-A Chicken being branded as the new saint of Christianity for standing up for all that is Holy Matrimony in the eyes of the Church. These folks want to be on the wrong side of history with their public criticism of homosexuality but cry fowl (pardon the pun) when their own bigotry is examined in a public light. Batter and fry all the nonsense at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/08/holy-rollin-poultry-on-cross-chick-fil.html

  • J the C

    This whole controversy is a joke! Duck Dynasty is a "reality show". People who watch this garbage get what they watch...trash! I have no doubt the Phil the Christian is a fraud. Just another redneck looking to accumulate as much wealth as he can. How Christian is that? He's a hater! He did this interview to create controversy, and more profit. I think I saw his photo on the local "incarcerated" website.