LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - “Duck Dynasty” reality TV personality Phil Robertson, who has been suspended from the hit show for making comments condemning homosexuality, made similar remarks in a religious speech given two years before the series began its run on cable network A&E.
The speech posted on video-sharing website YouTube in February 2010 shows Robertson addressing a supper at Berean Bible Church in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, and condemning homosexuals in the 45-minute talk that touched on the U.S. Constitution and secularization of American society.
“They (homosexuals) committed indecent acts with one another,” said Robertson, clad in his usual camouflage, in the video posted on the church’s YouTube page, which has drawn fresh attention in the wake of Robertson’s suspension from one of the most-watched shows on cable television.
“And they received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion,” he added. “They’re full of murder, envy, strife, hatred. They are insolent, arrogant God haters. They are heartless. They are faithless. They are senseless. They are ruthless. They invent ways of doing evil.”
Robertson, the patriarch of the Louisiana clan on the reality show about hunting, fishing and domestic squabbles, was put on indefinite “hiatus” by A&E on Wednesday for his remarks to GQ magazine characterizing homosexuality as sinful behavior.
A spokeswoman for A&E, a joint cable network venture of Walt Disney Co and privately held Hearst Corp, did not immediately return a message seeking comment about whether A&E knew about Robertson’s earlier comments on homosexuality.
The network has previously said it was disappointed after reading Robertson’s remarks, which it added were his personal views and did not reflect those of the network.
Civil rights groups GLAAD criticized the comments, but the 67-year-old Robertson also found supporters among Republican politicians and figures, such as former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who all advocated Robertson’s right to free speech.
The future of the popular series, which is scheduled to begin its previously taped fifth season on January 15, is up in the air following Robertson’s indefinite suspension and his family hinted that they would not participate without him.
“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,” the family said in a statement on Thursday.
The standoff between the Robertson family and A&E has put big money in the balance as the impasse also threatens a vast array of “Duck Dynasty” licensed merchandise that has brought in some $400 million, according to Forbes magazine.
“Duck Dynasty” brand apparel and products, including camouflage bed sheets and reclining furniture, are sold at retailers such as Target and Walmart.
The show’s fourth season debuted in August to 11.8 million viewers, a record for a cable nonfiction series, A&E said.
It averages about 8 million viewers per episode and its Christmas special was most-watched non-sports cable program on U.S. television last week.
Editing by Mary Milliken and Lisa Shumaker