Loving the Sinners

A&E Ducks for Cover by Forgiving Phil Robertson

As remotes around the country thumped along with bibles, ‘Duck Dynasty’ ratings were set to dip. So the network let Phil Robertson off the hook for his homophobic rant.

AP Photo/A&E, Zach Dilgard

Let me goose A&E as they duck for cover over their botched handling of the Phil Robertson mess. Robertson, of course, is the petty patriarch of the Louisiana family that fills Duck Dynasty with divine wisdoms, along with expert ways to lure ducks so you can shoot their guts out. (Well, God did provide the bounty, after all.)

And A&E has decided that it shalt not kill Phil’s chances for stardom despite the misguided things that come out of his mouth like explosive bird diarrhea.

In a wildly controversial GQ interview, Robertson equated homosexuality with bestiality, which is extra strange since he’s the one who’s obsessed with animals, not me and my friends. He also compared gays to greedy people and swindlers, all headed to eternal damnation unless salvation calls. “But he’s just quoting the bible” say his loving supporters, rallying around him with beatific grins and guns out. Well, if there was some religion based on a hoary old book written by humans, and it said that Christians should go to hell along with criminals and CEOs, would I get away with quoting it in public? Even if I only selectively pulled passages from such a book rather than heed every single word in it (like the stuff that’s vehemently against demonization)?

Robertson went on to light-heartedly boast about preferring to commingle with a lady’s vagina rather than a man’s anus, achieving the modern high-water mark for TMI. As for the “sin” of those who like the reverse, he quipped, “It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.” As if consensual adult sexual acts need to get notarized endorsement from a man who lures wildlife to slaughter while spouting God’s alleged word for profit. How logical would that be? Besides, are bible readers against anal intercourse with the opposite sex too? I pray they can all prove they’ve never done it and also never enjoyed it!

And that’s just the tip of the murky duck pond. The 67-year-old quack’s comments about black people made his gay stuff sound like a GLAAD release by comparison. In the same interview, Robertson said that the African Americans he knew way back in the pre-civil rights era were all bouncy and singing, with nary a grudge in their hearts, as they gaily toiled away for white farmers. “Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare…they were happy. No one was singing the blues,” the man stated, with a seriousness that could no doubt inspire Paula Deen to whip up some kickass duck dishes. This guy would probably recommend 12 Years a Slave as a romantic comedy. I’m guessing that his ring tone is “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah.”

As the inevitable uproar bubbled up over these remarks, A&E decided to put Robertson on an indefinite hiatus, but then the backlash suffered a backlash. The ratings were set to drop, as remotes around the country thumped along with bibles. What’s more, the Robertson family wasn’t necessarily going to keep filming without doctor-less Phil. And naturally, Sarah Palin chimed in her two hastily prepared cents against the channel, while admitting that she hadn’t actually read the interview. This from the woman who lost her chance to be in the White House largely because when Katie Couric asked her what she read, she couldn’t think of anything! You’d think she’d have started trying to click on an occasional link after that literary debacle.

One of the big defenses Palin did manage to get in was that Robertson says he loves sinners, absolutely adores the folks. But somehow that concession fails to be terribly heartening. “Love the sinner” is one of religion’s most patronizing ways to bludgeon someone into submission while making yourself appear noble for doing so. And Robertson’s supposed love of gays includes lumping them in with other sinners like, you know, “terrorists.” Good luck trying to convince my gay brethren to be thrilled that we’re on an equal plane with bin Laden, and it’s heading to the fires of hell. Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Doo, gurl.

Anyway, once some major cash flow seemed to be at stake, A&E wasn’t quite so sure of its ethics. They withdrew their slap on the wrist, while citing various mealy mouthed reasons. Robertson, they said, would “never incite or encourage hate.” No, except when he incites or encourages hate. The show, they added, is more than one person’s views. Yeah, and a lot of them agree with him. And finally, they noted that Duck Dynasty “is a show about a family, a family that America has come to love. As you might have seen in many episodes, they come together to reflect and pray for unity, tolerance, and forgiveness.” Their own, I hope.

Swarms of Christ-loving people have defended their Duck hero’s freedom of speech, the same ones who thought that whole Chick-fil-A horror in 2012 was a triumph of human rights. But “free speech” doesn’t mean you can say anything and still keep a job! If your free speech threatens someone’s chances to live a free life, it hardly means that putting someone on hiatus from a TV show would violate the Constitution. At the very least, couldn’t A&E have brought some proud gay and African American characters into the show’s next season and let them try to enlighten Robertson, as well as the millions of cable viewers who couch-sit in awe of him?

Of course sticking to their initial response would have been even stronger because caving in shows how easily execs can be swayed from what they had already announced as correct. MSNBC had no problem putting Alec Baldwin’s Up Late on hiatus after he indulged in another one of his public tantrums involving anti-gay slurs. Baldwin and the channel later came to a “mutual parting” and the show is bye-bye, perhaps forcing the part-time liberal to finally confront the way his mouth doesn’t always match up with his ideas. He’s now free to do another show, so maybe he and Robertson should get together for some kind of Celebrity Hate Rehab series with a happy ending. I wouldn’t watch it, but I wouldn’t protest it either.