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National Editorials & Columns

A&E has the right to suspend 'Duck Dynasty' star

I should be writing about Christmastime or the New Year, but I figure you haven’t heard enough, yet, about the “Duck Dynasty” controversy.

“Duck Dynasty” is a silly “reality” TV show on the A&E network. It follows the goings-on of the Robertson family. Patriarch Phil Robertson invented a duck call, and he made a boatload of money from it.

The show is a big hit. They come off as a bunch of hicks – Robertson has referred to himself as “white trash.” But they’re not white trash. They’re actually well-educated, savvy business people and deeply religious.

The religious right has embraced them as “one of their own,” so conservatives are a bit protective of the family. Like any family, if one of them says something that might be a bit offensive, we don’t banish them from the clan.

Well, Papa Phil said some things in a magazine interview that were offensive toward gays and a bit historically inaccurate toward blacks. His remarks were his opinions. They didn’t offend me because I regard them as opinions. But his employer was not happy and suspended him indefinitely from the network.

Right away, there was an outcry, mostly from the religious right, over First Amendment freedom. One would expect the right to support a business’ right to employ whoever they want, but when that bumps up against their religious beliefs, religion wins.

I say that because there was no outcry when Martin Bashir was ousted from MSNBC for saying offensive things about Sarah Palin. There was no outcry of support for the Westboro Baptist Church for boycotting military funerals. There was no outcry of support from the right when the Dixie Chicks said unflattering things about President George W. Bush.

Frankly, there is no First Amendment issue with Robertson. He had the right to say what he said, and he said it. He was suspended by his employer, and his employer has that right.

I don’t think I would have suspended him since his comments were not made on A&E and were his own personal opinions. But A&E made Robertson the celebrity he is, and he would not have had an interview in a national magazine but for his association with A&E. Therefore, A&E obviously believes that Robertson’s comments reflect on them.

He can continue to voice his opinions. But A&E doesn’t have to employ him. Forcing them to would be more egregious than the comments he made.

• David Porter who can be reached at

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