Phil Robertson’s anti-gay comments aren’t the only part of his interview with GQ causing controversy.
The 67-year-old “Duck Dynasty” star was suspended by A&E Wednesday for calling homosexuality sinful — and putting gay people in same category as terrorists. While those quotes quickly went viral, it wasn’t his only brow-raising statement in the interview; he also implied that African Americans were happier living under Jim Crow laws.
“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once,” the reality star said of growing up in pre-Civil-Rights-era Louisiana. “Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field … They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’ — not a word!”
Robertson continued, “Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”
Needless to say, that hasn’t gone over well either. A spokesperson for the NAACP shared a copy of the letter that they, along with the Human Rights Campaign, sent to “Duck Dynasty” network A&E. In addition to asking for the network to “denounce and repudiate Robertson’s comments,” they demanded that Robertson “apologizes for his vitriolic comments.”
“We want to be clear why Phil Robertson’s remarks are not just dangerous but also inaccurate,” the letter stated, in part. “Mr. Robertson claims that, from what he saw, African Americans were happier under Jim Crow. What he didn’t see were lynching and beatings of black men and women for attempting to vote or simply walking down the street.”
Noting that the remarks “go beyond being outlandishly inaccurate and offensive” and are actually “dangerous and revisionist, appealing to those in our society who wish to repeat patterns of discrimination,” the letter said Robertson’s “words show an unbridled lack of respect for African Americans and LGBT people, and the ongoing challenges members of our communities continue to experience on a daily basis.”
“Surely a brand like A&E does not want to be associated with such racist and homophobic remarks,” it concluded.
Robertson’s remarks about African Americans could ultimately be more damaging in the longterm than what he said about homosexuals, according to one expert.
“Racial comments are often career killers — as are scandals involving children and animals,” David E. Johnson, who is the CEO of public relations and branding agency Strategic Vision, tells Yahoo TV. “Yet, looking at the demographics who are attracted to ‘Duck Dynasty,’ we see an older, more conservative, and evangelical audience. These people will take the comments with a grain of salt. This is because Phil Robertson and the ‘Duck Dynasty’ brand is one that is viewed as politically incorrect and says what is on their mind. So, in that light, the comments are unlikely to do damage — unless African Americans begin emerging and demonstrating he has discriminated against [them].”
However, “Barring that, overall, his comments and the controversy has in all likelihood strengthened the brand,” adds Johnson.
On Wednesday night, the cable network did denounce the “Duck Dynasty” patriarch. In addition to suspending him indefinitely from filming, they said in a statement, “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.’ 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.”
Earlier in the day, Robertson clarified his words — though he didn’t come close to apologizing.
“I myself am a product of the ’60s; I centered my life around sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll until I hit rock bottom and accepted Jesus as my Savior,” the TV star said in a statement. “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. However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.”
Not everyone is offended by Robertson’s statements. A petition called IStandWithPhil.com was launched by a group called Faith Driven Consumer and calls for A&E to reinstate Robertson — and apologize to the “Duck Dynasty” watchers who share the TV’s star’s beliefs.
“Mr. Robertson’s comments in GQ magazine are simply reflective of a Biblical view of sexuality, marriage, and family — a view that has stood the test of time for thousands of years and continues to be held by the majority of Americans and today’s world as a whole,” it says on the site. “While the LGBT community may be offended by his opposing viewpoint, your rash, discriminatory, and unfair treatment toward Mr. Robertson — a recognized symbol of the faith community — is a slap in the face to Faith Driven Consumers and everyday Americans alike.”
Needless to say, this controversy won’t be dying down anytime soon.