The internet lost its damn mind last week when it was revealed that Phil Robertson, the man behind TV’s “Duck Dynasty” might not be down with the gays. Some of Robertson’s more controversial comments were leaked from a January GQ issue, and suddenly everybody with a wireless connection came out of the woodwork to express their opinions—both pro and anti. Facebook got stuffed, Twitter was all atwitter, and bloggers nearly wet themselves with glee having found a new topic with which to divide America. Within days the “Duck Dynasty” network, A&E, announced the indefinite suspension of Robertson. Shortly after that, the rest of the Robertson clan hinted at a boycott of the show, saying, “We cannot imagine the show going forward without our patriarch.” I wish I could say all this attention, furor and righteous indignation was in response to a Supreme Court decision or a political move by North Korea or some kind of sweeping UN resolution. But no. It’s inspired by a show about people who manufacture duck calls.
In a nutshell, Robertson, an already notable Christian conservative, told GQ that homosexuality is “not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.” Robertson paraphrased the Bible a bit and compared homosexuality to bestiality. Talking about what’s wrong with America, Robertson answered, “start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there.” Things got a lot more graphic after that. Like most blatant homophobes, Robertson seems unnecessarily obsessed with the mechanics of homosexual intercourse. So far just about all the uproar over Robertson’s comments has focused on his antigay remarks. But in the interview, he also proved himself a racist, saying that black people were perfectly content in the Deep South during segregation. “They were happy and singing,” claimed Robertson. “I never, with my own eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person,” Robertson declared. (On a related note, it’s doubtful he ever saw, with his own eyes, Hitler kill any Jews—so that probably never happened either.) And to top off his trifecta of ignorance, Robertson went after some other world religions, ranting against “Islamists” and claiming that Shintoism leads directly to “murder.”
Of course Republican politicians immediately seized the opportunity to score some points with conservatives. Sarah Palin and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal accused A&E of violating Robertson’s Freedom of Speech. As usual politicians don’t seem to have a very clear grasp of our country’s laws. The First Amendment says that “Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech.” Unless Congress gets involved, that particular claim is pretty much moot. Does Robertson have the right, as an American, to say whatever stupid crap he wants? Yes. Does A&E have the right to fire him for whatever he says? Absolutely. The Constitution guarantees the right to free speech. It doesn’t guarantee the right to your own basic cable reality show.
With more than 10 million regular views (more than most broadcast network shows) and endless merchandising (from red wine to door mats), the juggernaut that is “Duck Dynasty” is in no danger of being canceled by anyone. Not A&E, who knew Robertson was a redneck bigot when they gave him the show. Not the Robertson family, all of whom are making millions off “Duck Dynasty” candy bars. Which means all this negative controversy does is stir up more ratings. Apparently there is no such thing as bad publicity.