• Fri, Dec 20 - 12:09 pm ET

Here’s Your Constitutionally-Mandated Update On The Duck Dynasty Controversy

Duck Dynasty group photo for GQ December 2013So yesterday we wrote up a little cliff notes guide to the controversy over the bigoted comments given by Duck Dynasty star and family patriarch Phil Robertson, and boy did a lot of you get pissed.

Your dude made what I (and many others) felt were extremely homophobic and racist comments — calling homosexuality a sin on the level of bestiality and saying that people of color were happier before the civil rights era, among other things — statements that got him put on indefinite hiatus from the reality show. All seems to be in order so far. A&E is ultimately a business and they have a contract with the Robertson family, so if one of the members of that family makes themselves a liability, it’s safe to assume that it might affect their working relationship, right?

NO. Turns out that according to some of our commenters, even writing about this controversy is violating the First Amendment, aka Freedom of Speech. Which is so weird, because I thought that amendment was initially designed to protect members of the press and individuals from persecution for sharing their opinions. But apparently I was wrong and it was designed to protect reality TV stars from being taken off the air as a consequence for a really idiotic remark.

That’s the kind of oppression that the Constitution is trying to protect against, you guys! Not fines or legal prosecution or jail time, not to mention assault or torture or goddamn murder — the real definition of persecution is when a white, male, Christian millionaire is temporarily taken off the air for a reality television show which he profits from but doesn’t produce. That’s not oppression, that’s a consequence, and it’s something that, as an adult human living in the world, you should be used to by now.

Look at me, I’m used to it! I know that when I write a post, people aren’t legally entitled to firebomb my house, but they are entitled to leave nasty comments completely misunderstanding the law. That’s their right, and I would never take it away from them, no matter how frustrated I get, or how unfair it feels. We all have to be grown-ups now, you guys. You ready? Let’s read the statement issued by the Robertson Family and see if they’re ready.

“We want to thank all of you for your prayers and support. The family has spent much time in prayer since learning of A&E’s decision. We want you to know that first and foremost we are a family rooted in our faith in God and our belief that the Bible is His word. While some of Phil’s unfiltered comments to the reporter were coarse, his beliefs are grounded in the teachings of the Bible. Phil is a Godly man who follows what the Bible says are the greatest commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Phil would never incite or encourage hate. We are disappointed that Phil has been placed on hiatus for expressing his faith, which is his constitutionally protected right. We have had a successful working relationship with A&E but, as a family, we cannot imagine the show going forward without our patriarch at the helm. We are in discussions with A&E to see what that means for the future of Duck Dynasty. Again, thank you for your continued support of our family.”

Okay sure. A constitutional reference, some shoutouts to loving on everybody, even the disgusting ones who love who they want to love. That all seems to be in order. Except there’s also this video that just surfaced from 2010, that shows an hour-long speech from Phil Robertson appearing to target the gay community yet again in a rambling speech made in front of diners at the Berean Bible Church in Pennsylvania.

And finally, Jon Stewart weighed in on the controversy as well last night, pointing out that it’s a little hypocritical to call ‘freedom of speech’ on this, given that Fox News consistently tells people how to act and what to say on their program, frequently even giving viewers the tools to register their own disapproval, like contact information and complaint lines to oppose the supposed War on Christmas.

I have no doubt that this controversy will get even more ridiculous, so please stay tuned for future bigotry and homophobia in the guise of patriotism and loving your neighbor as you love yourself. Sigh.

(Photo: Jeff Reidel for GQ)

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  • Nikki

    I question the validity of this argument altogether when you cannot state the correct Constitutional Amendment in your post.

    • Alexis Rhiannon

      Embarrassing as it is, you are correct, and I have fixed the error.

      Feel free to take my argument seriously now, because I’m interested in your thoughts.

    • Nikki

      I appreciate that you fixed the error, but I still believe that you have misunderstood the law. I have a completely different view on the First Amendment, as I did not learn in law school and beyond that it protects the press and individuals from “persecution.” The First Amendment simply protects those rights from GOVERNMENT interference – it has nothing to do with the “persecution” or hatred you receive from others. However, if it did, then your argument would be moot because it would back Phil’s standpoint, and I believe you would not want to be doing that, would you? So, if not, I move onto the next point of my argument – the network’s (not the government’s) right to destroy the contract.

      A&E has the right to destroy Phil’s contract. Fine. But this is a free country and every person is entitled to express their views – which A&E should know about considering SOMEONE from the A&E network had to sign off on Phil’s involvement in GQ magazine. Everyone knows the hard-hitting questions that GQ magazine asks, including A&E. Everyone knows of Phil’s religious-based views (or at least should know of them considering there has been a video of those views up since 2010), including A&E. So, I do not believe that A&E has been completely honest with the viewers in reprimanding Phil at this point in his stint with Duck Dynasty.

      My third, and final, point has to do with your comment regarding the following: “Fox News consistently tells people how to act and what to say on their program…” My response: meh meh. EVERY political network does this – NOT just Fox News. CNN, MSNBC, Fox News – they are ALL guilty. It isn’t the best idea to bash one network (just because you do not agree with that network’s political agenda – which it is obvious from your standpoint that you do not agree with Fox News whatsoever) when all networks are the same. No one should fully take everything a media piece has to say with any merit – or at least without doing some research. If someone would have done that with your piece (before edited), we would all think that the Second Amendment is about free speech.

      Needless to say, I appreciate your article and your viewpoint. I only wish that this world and our generation would actually open up their eyes and ears and stop believing the lies that are put in front of us on a daily basis.

    • Alexis Rhiannon

      I referenced Fox News only to give context for the video following it, in which Jon Stewart used it as an example to highlight the hypocrisy of people claiming this is a freedom of speech violation.

      And I don’t buy into the argument that A&E should’ve protected Phil from himself by not letting him do the interview or not signing him or whatever you’re suggesting just because there was a POSSIBILITY he’d do something to reveal his bigoted ways down the line.

    • Nikki

      Either way, every political network does this – not just Fox News.

      You don’t have to “buy into the argument” – I would expect nothing less from someone so set in their views. I’m suggesting that A&E was not being honest with the viewers (along with others not watching the show) by terminating Phil’s contract at this point – they knew his views were no different from 2010 to now. It just seems odd that A&E would cave to the public turmoil now that Phil’s views are on paper, even though Phil’s views have been on video even before the airing of Duck Dynasty’s first episode.

  • Chelsea

    This article also does a good job of pointing out the inadequacies of the “freedom of speech” argument: http://www.businessinsider.com/sarah-palin-duck-dynasty-2013-12

  • http://maitribathbody.com/ Maitri

    Let him say “all wimmens should be barefoot and in the kitchen” and see how many of his loyal viewers defend him then. That’ll be next.
    Basically he has the right to say whatever he wants. He also has to face the consequences for what he says. If he says something – rooted in the Bible or not – and people don’t like it, they will say so. If his employer doesn’t like what he publicly says as a representative of their company, they have the right to re-evaluate his contract. It’s no different from an accountant getting drunk at the company Xmas party and being arrested for urinating in public. If it makes his employer look bad, they have the right to fire him.

    • Alexis Rhiannon

      Absolutely.

  • CrazyLogic

    As I once said. You have a right to say whatever you want, but that very same right allows me to call you and asshole and tell you to go fuck yourself if I find those beliefs personally offensive.

    • Alexis Rhiannon

      Ayooooo.

  • Dina Bo Bina

    This is why Gandhi was not a big fan of Christians even though he really liked Christ. Preaching publicly and hatefully about stuff in the bible that was written way before Jesus came around while directly ignoring his teachings just makes the rest of us look bad. Be honest about your bigotry being exactly what it is and don’t use Christianity to defend it.

    Alexis you continue to be one of my favorite bloggers, even if you wrote the wrong amendment in this post ;) haters gonna hate, you’re awesome.

    • Alexis Rhiannon

      Hahaha thank you, Dina! I appreciate it!

      …and am also embarrassed. The error is fixed now!

    • Kate

      I completely agree, Dina. I wholeheartedly support his constitutional right to espouse whatever bigoted views he chooses to hold (as long as those who disagree with him are afforded the right to call him out on it). However, I’d really rather he didn’t denigrate the entire institution of Christianity by claiming that he was “expressing his faith,” as if homophobia is a core value in our belief system when really, he made the decision as an individual to interpret an incredibly minute excerpt of the Bible in a certain way. No WONDER there’s backlash against organized religion and “Bible-thumping” conservatives. It truly isn’t mainstream Christianity that’s refusing to adapt to the times; it’s just that, like almost every controversial institution, the most polarized voices (dare I say, extremists) are doing their best to drown the rest of us out.

      Here’s the thing. I’m also a churchgoing, Sunday School-bred Christian like Phil. I just happened to be brought up in a faith that encouraged us to apply the lessons and morals outlined in the Bible in a way that makes the most sense in a society two millennia removed from the text’s origin (keywords here are “apply”; “outline”; “MAKES SENSE”; “TWO MILLENNIA REMOVED”). A radical and controversial thought, I know.

      Feel free to send me an evite to my stoning.

    • Alexis Rhiannon

      The Bible has a clear moral bias against e-vites, Kate. They’re not even MENTIONED.

    • gradyphilpott

      Jesus taught from the Jewish scripture, so you cannot distance Jesus from what was written before His “coming around.”

      Actually, Christianity is has less to do with the teachings of Christ than Judaism does, since Jesus was a Jewish rabbi.

      Jesus’ problem was not with Judaism, but rather the Saducees, who were in cahoots with the Romans.

      Jesus taught that we should love our neighbors and you’ll find those same words in the Jewish scriptures.

      It is unfortunate really that it was the Pauline sect that took hold rather than that of James, the brother of Jesus.

      However, as much as Jesus love sinners, he also hated sin and he was not afraid to say so.

      This entire discussion reminds me of he blind leading the blind.

  • StarNerd

    I’m going to start with the fact that I don’t agree with anything
    Phil Robertson said in his GQ article. I personally don’t have any issues with homosexuality.
    Nor do I have any sort of belief in any religion (too much Blind Faith for my
    overly logical self). But he does, and that’s his right, and his opinion.
    Something we are all entitled to. Do I agree with his opinion? No. Which is
    also my right. Do I think the way he
    shares his opinion is more than inappropriate? Yes. But that’s what he chose to do and now he has to deal with the backlash.

    If you watch even one episode of the show, you know that
    these people are Christian. They don’t hide it.

    The fact that A&E has ‘suspended’ him is also their
    right, it has nothing to do with the constitution or Freedom of Speech, and the
    people who bring up that argument are just plain ignorant, and looking for
    somewhere to place the blame.

    He’s a grown ass multi-millionaire. He knew what he was
    saying and he knew what the reaction was going to be, and I fully believe he doesn’t
    care. His opinions are not going to change, and that’s his right.

    • Alexis Rhiannon

      Agreed.

  • Ria

    I really think a lot of the issues brought up are “hate” vs. “ignorance” and they are two polar opposites. I’m in my mid 40′s and Alexis, you’re very young…you perceive everything very black and white and, the reality is, life isn’t black and white.

    I got very upset when Julianna Hough was called racist etc. for her Halloween costume, she’s clearly not an evil or hateful person…ignorant, most likely but that doesn’t make a person bad! She was ignorant but not hateful.

    I have 3 sons and the way I look at it is, what if it was one of my boys, would I be accepting? The answer is yes, I would! But we can’t hate people for being ignorant…it doesn’t mean they’re hateful. I’ve told my boys that if they find love, true love, then I’m one happy mom…I don’t care whether they find it with a male or a female, I just want them to find healthy, loving relationships:)

    Don’t blur ignorance with hate, they’re not the same.

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  • Bart

    wow, you are so a bastion of light in the freedom of speech fight, its nice to see that you can tag this as racism, I’d ask how do you sleep at night, but I’m pretty sure you are delusional enough to sleep just fine. I’m not saying what Phil Robsomethingson said was right, just that you seem to value your input to society on a skewed level. I kinda feel sorry for you, like the slow kid at the playground

    • Alexis Rhiannon

      Thanks for bringing mental illness into the discussion! We definitely need to be talking about that!

  • gradyphilpott

    So the people who demand tolerance of everyone else cannot tolerate a man who speaks his mind and reflect the tenets of his religion.

    • Alexis Rhiannon

      Is closed-mindedness really a tenet of any religion? And if it is, should it be?

    • gradyphilpott

      It seems to me that there’s enough close-mindedness to go around. What’s the difference between your close-mindedness and The “Duck Man’s.”

      Absolutely none, I would proffer.

    • Alexis Rhiannon

      Mine doesn’t sideline an entire demographic.

    • gradyphilpott

      Au contraire, unless of course you don’t count evangelical Christians as a demographic.

    • Alexis Rhiannon

      I criticized the comments of one dude; I said nothing about his demographic.

    • gradyphilpott

      That “dude’s” comments are typical of a a very large demographic.
      It’s no use engaging you in a discussion, if you’re not even sure of your thesis.
      Sorry to have taken up your time.

    • Alexis Rhiannon

      If you’re willing to say that every single evangelical Christian thinks that homosexuality is an abomination, that’s your own deal.

    • gradyphilpott

      Forgive me, I thought I was discussing with an adult. Phil’s beliefs are representative of the beliefs of evangelical Christians. I appreciate your trying to seem well-educated and disciplined of thought, but you’re not fooling many.

      Enjoy your life and your blogging hobby.

    • Alexis Rhiannon

      I think there are some evangelical Christians who would be upset to be lumped into the category of bigots, and definitely some grownups who’d be disappointed to find that you have to be closed-minded to achieve true adulthood. Myself included.

    • gradyphilpott

      You clearly know not whereof you speak.

      And people who base their opinions on what they believe to be God’s word don’t like to be called bigots.

      Furthermore, Phil made it clear that he did not hate homosexuals, although he believes that the activity is a sin.

      You and others are guilty of clinging to an invalid interpretation of his remarks, which makes you a bigot.

      Good day, hypocrite!

    • Alexis Rhiannon

      ‘Clinging’ is an interesting choice of words. Like clinging to antiquated ideas instead of opening your mind to innovations like equality.