Fox News
December 20, 2013

'Duck Dynasty' debate: Who's really intolerant?

Guests: Rick Ungar, Remi Spencer, Todd Starnes

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," December 23, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

TUCKER CARLSON, GUEST HOST: Welcome to "Hannity."

The fate of the "Duck Dynasty" show up in the air tonight as the Robertsons rally behind family patriarch Phil.

I'm Tucker Carlson, in tonight for Sean.

In response to A&E suspending Phil indefinitely from the show because he dared to voice his personal opinions about homosexuality, the Robertson family released the following statement, and it reads this way.

Quote: "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're disappointed that Phil has been placed on hiatus for expressing his faith, which is his constitutionally protected right. We have had a successful working with 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.'"

Well, FOX News reached out to A&E asking for a response to the Robertson family's statement. The network simply said, quote, "We have no further comment."

And tonight, we want you to join the conversation. You can log onto Sean's Facebook page and tell us what you think. Do you think A&E executives should reverse their decision about Phil Robertson? Also, it's time to "Trend at 10:00." You can sound off using Twitter with the hashtag #Hannity.

For reaction, we bring in our panel, Democratic strategist Rick Ungar, from FOX News Radio, Todd Starnes, and the great Remi Spencer, also an attorney.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Welcome to you all.

REMI SPENCER, ATTORNEY: Thanks, Tucker.

CARLSON: Mr. Ungar, I want to start with you. Now, Phil Robertson is being accused of intolerance, but as far as I know, he never advocated anybody getting fired for being gay, and yet gay groups are advocating he be fired for expressing disapproval of the way they live. So who's intolerant here!

RICK UNGAR, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Let's get one thing straight. This may be only the time a liberal says something to you that you're going to believe. There will be no end of "Duck Dynasty" on A&E. It is the most

profitable show they've had ever.

CARLSON: So they -- in addition to making a bad decision, they have no principles, is what you're saying!

UNGAR: And by the way, they already have nine of ten episodes for this season in the can. When they start airing the shows on January 15th, it'll be the largest audience they've ever got because of all this publicity.

CARLSON: That is totally true! But I want to talk about tolerance, which is -- which is the lodestar of the left! We're tolerant! Really? You're so tolerant that you're crushing this guy for expressing beliefs that you don't share!

UNGAR: Well, first of all, not everybody is crushing him. Certainly, gay groups are because they're offended. And you can't be shocked that they're offended by the way he said what he said.

HANNITY: I'm not shocked at all.

UNGAR: Look, he has -- he does have a First Amendment right to say what he wants. I think he would have done better for himself if he had put it a little more artfully. He said some pretty gross things in that. He didn't need to. If that's his religious belief, I say he's entitled to say it.

CARLSON: But Todd...

UNGAR: He is. But they're entitled to also complain.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: I mean, look, I -- you know, how many times a day are you offended by things you read in the -- do you read The Times? Like, you get offended, right?

TODD STARNES, FOX NEWS RADIO: Well, of course.

CARLSON: How many people have you tried to get fired because of being

offended?

(CROSSTALK)

STARNES: Yes, exactly. And that's the point. Look, those who preach tolerance and diversity in this country are, in fact, the least tolerant and diverse of all. A lot of people have been sounding off on this on my radio show. Today I declared it to be "Duck Dynasty Appreciation Day." Tucker, I'm standing in solidarity with Phil Robertson by wearing a camouflage tie and...

CARLSON: Oh, look at that! It's a handsome tie, too.

STARNES: Well, thank you very much.

(LAUGHTER)

STARNES: Look, the -- we've had so many people all across the country put their kids in camo to show their support for the "Duck Dynasty" crowd. Let's not mince words here. "Duck Dynasty" was sacrificed on the altar of political correctness by a bunch of anti-Christian intolerant bullies at A&E!

CARLSON: Well, I have to say, Remi...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: I think that that's right. But you don't even have to agree with Phil Robertson to think that he's getting shafted in a way that threatens all of us! I mean, Camille Paglia, who I don't think is an observant Christian, probably not at all sympathetic to what Phil Robertson said, made the point this is totally authoritarian behavior! And it should be scary!

SPENCER: Right. I don't agree with what Robertson said, but I agree with his well-rounded right to say it. But I think one of the issues that's getting confused today -- we know Governor Bobby Jindal came out and talked about this being a violation of Robertson's First Amendment free speech rights or freedom of religious rights. It's neither of those. It has nothing to do with his constitutional right to free speech. Our constitutional right protects us from government involvement. The FCC didn't come to A&E and said, You got to take the show off the air.

CARLSON: But that's not really true, though, is it? Because in D.C., for example, where I live, private employers are not allowed to take into consideration all kinds of factors in hiring and firing. I can't hire or fire someone in D.C., for example, because of the way he looks!

UNGAR: There's a very big difference.

CARLSON: I'm not the government!

(CROSSTALK)

SPENCER: Yes, there is a very big...

UNGAR: Very big difference.

SPENCER: ... difference.

CARLSON: Really?

UNGAR: Yes.

SPENCER: This is not about free...

UNGAR: I'll tell you why.

SPENCER: It's not about free speech rights. Here, A&E has a contract...

CARLSON: So you have the right to have a Mohawk, but not the right to express your (INAUDIBLE)

UNGAR: You're missing something.

SPENCER: No, he's not -- this is about money. This is about a contract. This is -- A&E has hired Robertson and the rest of his family to be on a show. If they believe his behavior is going to affect his ability...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: True.

SPENCER: ... to profit for the network, they have every right...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Hold on! But we're talking about the principle here, which is where are the civil libertarian liberals who stand up for the right of people to offend? I mean, Al Goldstein just died, the pornographer. He was defended for decades by people on the grounds, I think what he says is disgusting, but he has the right to say it. Who's -- what liberals are saying that about Phil Robertson?

UNGAR: I am because it's unfair to lump all liberals together. Actually, most of the liberals I've talked to today are saying what he said was obnoxious, what he said was terrible, but he has a right to say it. We may not like what he said. I don't like what he said. I don't agree with what he said. But I'll defend his right to say it.

But I'll also defend A&E's right to exercise the morals clause in that contract. And it's there.

CARLSON: But I'm a little bit -- I'm confused about A&E. So they issued this statement saying that, among many other things, We have long been advocates for the LGBT community. I thought A&E was, like, a cable channel that showed documentaries. When did they become...

UNGAR: Look...

CARLSON: ... advocates for any community?

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: What does that mean?

STARNES: Apparently, they're not advocates for the Christian community, based on what they've done to Phil Robertson. But I think this is a symptom of a much larger problem in this country, where Christians are being marginalized.

Go back to Chick-fil-A, where you had government entities threatening to shut down Chick-fil-A and prevent them from opening up businesses in their communities, again, based on a religious belief. This is happening all across the country, not getting much national attention. But "Duck Dynasty" is. And I think that's why so many people -- we're talking over a million people now have registered complaints, and that's the reason why.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: ... all the rich, fashionable, powerful people look down on evangelical Christians. And I know that's true here in New York, too, and I think it's true nationally.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: That's the one thing you don't want to be is, like, the Jesus guy, right?

SPENCER: Well...

CARLSON: You can be the transsexual. That's totally cool.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: But if you're the guy quoting the Bible at the table, man, back off!

SPENCER: I think people get nervous when they're around others who have very deeply rooted religious beliefs, whatever those beliefs are. And I think it's unfair to say that Robertson is representative of all Christians...

CARLSON: Well, that's true.

SPENCER: ... because a lot of Christians who are very devout and very religious don't hold these same beliefs about homosexuality.

STARNES: Absolutely untrue!

(CROSSTALK)

STARNES: I'm sorry, but that is not true. This is a -- this is a -- he was quoting from the holy Bible!

(CROSSTALK)

UNGAR: Wait. You think A&E has an anti-Christian agenda?

(CROSSTALK)

UNGAR: A&E has a pro-profit-making agenda!

STARNES: If Phil Robertson had been twerking a duck, he would have gotten an Emmy...

(CROSSTALK)

SPENCER: No, no. That's just not fair.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: That image is going to stay with me and haunt my dreams, Todd.

STARNES: Sorry about that.

CARLSON: I hope that we get it somehow taken out of the show so our viewers don't have to think about it.

(CROSSTALK)

SPENCER: Robertson may have been quoting the Bible, but we know that there are plenty of interpretations, plenty of good people who disagree with him.

CARLSON: Well, but he was -- I would say -- you're right, there's -- there is a spectrum. The Episcopal church...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: But he was basically quoting from the Bible!

UNGAR: Well, no, he really wasn't quoting.

SPENCER: And A&E had a political correctness reaction to it.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: All right, we're going to -- we have more with our spirited panel right after the break. And we'll reveal which major "Duck Dynasty" sponsor has decided it will, in fact, stay with Phil, if not the show.

And later, I'll go head to head with this man. He's the lead organizer of an Islamic extremist group in the U.K. His group is threatening business owners with a lashing and the wrath of Allah if they continue to sell alcohol. Seriously. An interview you've got to see.

And later, Ainsley Earhardt reveals the final installment in her week-long Homes for Heroes series. There's a lot coming up. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to "Hannity." As we wait to see what happens between A&E and the Robertson family, there's one thing the "Duck Dynasty" crew does not have to worry about, and that is losing the support from one of their biggest sponsors. In a statement to TMZ, Under Armour said this.

Quote: "We have no plans to change our current relationship. We are obviously aware of the situation. His comments are not indicative of Under Armour's views."

Well, there's one of the sponsors standing by Phil.

For more reaction, we go back to our panel. I mean, Rick, this really is the point. In the end, as you point out, this is a business.

UNGAR: Yes.

CARLSON: And it's one of the biggest shows ever in cable. The sponsor is sticking by it. I mean, A&E would be fools!

UNGAR: This entire thing -- you know, I was laughing at my friend here. There's no anti-Christian agenda at A&E. I got to tell you something. The CEO of A&E would convert to Christianity if he could keep these kinds of ratings.

These are the biggest ratings in cable TV. It's now going to have the biggest premiere in two weeks that they could ever hope for. And do you know what film hasn't been shot? As I said earlier, they've done nine out of ten. You think everybody will turning in for the season cliffhanger...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: You just made the contrary case. You just made the opposite case. This is such a huge show, their business model, you know, depends on shows like this, and yet they're still fooling with it because they can't control themselves! So powerful is the bias against...

UNGAR: They're not fooling with it, they're promoting it!

(CROSSTALK)

STARNES: Well, just think about that. It's the most watched show in cable television history in the nonfiction category, and they pulled the plug on the star of the show. I mean, how are they going to -- how -- they suspended the guy indefinitely. They filmed the show in the guy's house. What are they going to do, blur out his face?

UNGAR: It's already filmed!

STARNES: No, no, no. But he's suspended indefinitely.

UNGAR: And what does that mean?

SPENCER: I think...

(CROSSTALK)

UNGAR: We know that the entire series is already shot with him in it.

SPENCER: I think that it means is, for all of you viewers out there who might have been offended by an article he gave to another media outlet, A&E is -- we're with you. We're -- we are understanding. We are taking steps. I think it's a politically correct move that got -- that they had hoped would protect them from any backlash because of the comments that he made.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: There is something larger going on here! Do you ever feel like -- I mean, there are always things in a polite society you can't say, right? Every civilized country has things that are taboo. But the list has gotten so long! I cannot even keep track of all the phrases I'm not allowed to use, all the unapproved thoughts I can't express in public or face sanction. We're getting to the point where we have to lie all the time in America! Have you noticed that?

UNGAR: What are -- what have you wanted to say in the past that...

CARLSON: I'm afraid to say it on TV! There are so many obvious things in America that, like, you're not allowed to say!

(CROSSTALK)

SPENCER: There is a different standard...

UNGAR: No one is (INAUDIBLE) me with what I can say.

CARLSON: Are you kidding!

SPENCER: There is a difference...

CARLSON: What American -- what sensing (ph) American doesn't self-censor himself constantly!

UNGAR: I don't.

CARLSON: Really? I think you do. I really do...

UNGAR: Tucker...

CARLSON: Unless you're so perfectly in synch with the idea commissars...

UNGAR: I think things that are politically incorrect all the time. I don't care.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: ... politically incorrect thing you can think of?

UNGAR: Gosh, I can't think of any.

CARLSON: Oh! Gotcha!

(LAUGHTER)

UNGAR: That's not fair!

STARNES: No, look, you know, it's -- this is again a symptom of a much bigger problem here. And I think Hollywood just doesn't get middle America. Why is this show so successful? Just think about this for a second. The Kardashians -- they get all of the attention, all the media attention...

CARLSON: They are really filthy and awful.

(CROSSTALK)

UNGAR: But "Duck Dynasty" has better ratings than the Kardashians.

STARNES: Let me finish! But here's -- but here's the point. But they get no national coverage, you know, unless something like this happens. And people seem to be genuinely shocked, like, why are they so popular? Well, it's because they represent mainstream America. They represent families. They represent families that go to church. They represent families that -- that cherish values!

CARLSON: Well, it is baffling. It's like Pauline Kael...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: ... Richard Nixon's reelection. I don't know anyone who voted for him...

(CROSSTALK)

SPENCER: Well, I think it's more than that, though. I think it's so much more than that. Tucker, you said that you censor yourself. But you are -- it's a different standard. As a reporter of the news, I think it's a different standard that you have to your viewers than a reality TV star. So A&E brought "Duck Dynasty" on the air because they -- they are Christian and they are devout. But they're also a little quirky and they're a little funny and they're entertaining. And I think we can't expect to hold them to the same responsible standard that we would hold someone like you.

CARLSON: But there is an authoritarian pulse in America all of a sudden, where, like, on certain subjects -- like on the gay subject -- I feel like I've always been pretty liberal personally on that subject. But all of a sudden, like, anything you say about gays that's not exactly in line, LGBT -- I can't keep up with the acronym! If you make fun of that acronym, which I often do because I think it's stupid, you're, like, a gay basher or something! It's, like -- it's -- I'm serious! It's oppressive...

UNGAR: You know what?

(CROSSTALK)

UNGAR: If Phil had done that interview -- and by the way, I don't know what you're watching, but you cannot turn on a sitcom in the past month without seeing somebody from "Duck Dynasty" on it. They are the hottest thing in the country, way eclipsing the Kardashians. So let's keep this real. They're not, like, being ignored.

If he said this in a certain way, if he had said, Look, I am a religious man, I believe the following, none of this would have said.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: If he had read aloud from the New Testament -- I think, as Todd was pointing out -- I've read the New Testament. There's a lot of stuff like this in -- especially in Paul's letters.

(CROSSTALK)

STARNES: But why should he have to say something in a certain way? Is that where we're at...

(CROSSTALK)

UNGAR: No, it's not where we're at, it's about...

STARNES: It's exactly where we're at!

(CROSSTALK)

UNGAR: I'm not going to insult you as a no-good guy who wears brown glasses. Why would I do that?

STARNES: What's wrong with my glasses?

UNGAR: Nothing.

(CROSSTALK)

UNGAR: It's just you don't need to insult people for no good reason.

CARLSON: But hold on! But can't you make statements about your values...

UNGAR: Yes, you can.

CARLSON: ... and perhaps...

(CROSSTALK)

UNGAR: But can't you make the statements without...

CARLSON: Without what! I mean, maybe he thinks that!

(CROSSTALK)

UNGAR: Because I cannot repeat some of the words on TV, as you know.

CARLSON: That he said?

UNGAR: Yes.

CARLSON: But maybe he -- like, let me just -- 30 years ago, like, presidential candidates were saying stuff like that!

UNGAR: Not what he said.

CARLSON: Yes.

UNGAR: Really?

CARLSON: He really was -- I've read it. He was truly paraphrasing.

(CROSSTALK)

UNGAR: What about the rest of it? You're forgetting a few words in there, and I really can't say them on TV.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Well, OK, fine...

UNGAR: I don't think presidential candidates...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: I will say that these were very conventional views not that long ago. I'm not that old, and I remember it. Do you remember it?

SPENCER: I do remember...

CARLSON: But we act like it's always been this way! No!

(CROSSTALK)

SPENCER: ... culture with easier access to information, the greater speed at which contact and communication is shared and the sound bite sort of society that we live in. People have a reaction faster and louder and a greater platform to do it. It's -- everything is rageful. Everybody wants to react.

CARLSON: Twitter dominates everything. I totally agree. You -- get off Twitter. Go read a book.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Thank you both. All three of you.

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