'Duck Dynasty' anti-gay fallout sparks wider debate on tolerance

Fri Dec 20, 2013 3:54am EST
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By Patricia Reaney and Eric Kelsey

NEW YORK/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The suspension of TV personality Phil Robertson of A&E's hit reality show "Duck Dynasty" for making anti-gay comments sparked a politically charged debate about religion and tolerance on Thursday and cast doubt on the series' future.

The controversy put A&E, part-owned by Walt Disney Co, in the awkward position of coming up with a palatable response possibly to the detriment of its most popular show, which is scheduled to begin its fifth season on January 15.

Robertson, the patriarch of the backwater Louisiana clan on the reality show about hunting, fishing and domestic squabbles, was put on indefinite "hiatus" by A&E for his remarks to GQ magazine characterizing homosexuality as sinful behavior.

"Start with homosexual behavior and just morph from there," Robertson, 67, said when asked what is sinful. "Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men."

A&E, a joint cable network venture of privately held Hearst Corp and Disney, said it was disappointed after reading Robertson's remarks, which it added were his personal views and did not reflect those of the network.

"The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely," it said in a statement.

A&E was not immediately available to comment beyond the statement.

The Robertson family posted a statement on their Duck Commander website Thursday night saying "we cannot imagine the show going forward without our patriarch at the helm."   Continued...