'Duck Dynasty' family pushes back: 'Cannot imagine' show without Phil

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The Robertson clan is sticking together. In a new twist to the Duck Dynasty controversy, the family behind A&E’s hit series released a statement saying they “cannot imagine” doing the unscripted show without patriarch Phil Robertson.

The family posted the remarks on their website after the network suspended Robertson for anti-gay and racially charged comments he made in a GQ magazine interview.

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.

Though the tight-knit Louisiana clan doesn’t indicate any intent to leave the show, the statement certainly suggests they don’t believe the show could continue without the patriarch. As our analysis pointed out earlier, a Duck Dynasty without Phil Robertson would seem odd. He may not be the focus of the series, but his absence will inevitability remind viewers of the controversy and add to the impression that the program is far from “reality.” The show is supposed to revolve around the wealthy family, who makes duck callers for hunters.

But is walking away even an option for the Robertsons? A&E could take the clan to court over what it would stand to lose in advertising, subscriber fees and ancillary revenues. At the same time, the Robertsons may feel like they have a legitimate grounds for divorce with the net, particularly given A&E’s decision to suspend the patriarch. Contracts often include moral and/or non-disparagement clauses, but it may be a stretch to hold Phil Robertson legally liable for his comments that, while offensive, weren’t made about the network or the show.

Opines one TV business affairs expert, “Other than wanting to distance themselves from those statements, I’m not sure how A&E would have legal grounds to fire them for breach of contract.”

Either way, A&E is in a major pickle. By suspending the “Duck Commander,” executives infuriated the cast and conservative fans who love him. Had the network done nothing, however, A&E would have faced mounting criticism by advocacy groups and advertisers for continuing to employ a man who was quoted as saying comments like “homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers … won’t inherit the kingdom of God” and “I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once … Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly, they were happy, no one was singing the blues.”

Meanwhile, more fuel was thrown on the fire today when the NAACP and the Human Rights Campaign penned a letter to A&E chief Nancy Dubuc regarding Robertson’s comments about African-Americans during the civil rights era. From the letter: “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.” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals also weighed in by calling for the show’s cancellation.

Fans have rallied in support of Phil Robertson. More than 500,000 Duck Dynasty fans have Liked a Facebook page supporting an A&E boycott, while more than 70,000 have signed a change.org petition asking for the network to return him to the series.

UPDATE: Is Duck Dynasty finished? 4 ways this ends

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