Geraldo Rivera: A Tale of Two Sitting Ducks

Phil Robertson, the Duck Commander, in West Monroe, La, on Nov. 7, 2013.

Phil Robertson, the Duck Commander, in West Monroe, La, on Nov. 7, 2013.  (A2013)

My defense of Phil Robertson starts with Alec Baldwin. While they come from different galaxies, both the fallen star of "Duck Dynasty" and the explosive brawler of "Saturday Night Live," "30 Rock" and the movies have fallen afoul of what Baldwin correctly labels “the fundamentalist wing of gay advocacy.”

Robertson, the 67-year-old Louisiana bayou-based, evangelical Christian patriarch in A&E’s "Duck Dynasty," infamously put homosexuality in the same category as bestiality and promiscuity. Baited by his GQ magazine interviewer, good ole Phil also asserted that black field workers in the South were so happy in the Jim Crow era, they whistled while they worked. As a result of his crass and insensitive remarks, after an avalanche of criticism from organized gay, black and other progressive groups, the A&E network suspended him, despite the fact that he is the star of their most popular show.

[Phil Robertson] is a beloved figure who got hoodwinked by a clever reporter, who allowed Phil to be himself.

- Geraldo Rivera

Baldwin is a different duck. The New York-based hipster actor, left wing paparazzi-basher was suspended and ultimately fired a month ago from his short-lived MSNBC talk show "Up Late" after a more visceral gay slur was caught on tape. “You f***g, c***ing f**got,” he blurted at one of the hyper aggressive photographers who routinely stalk him in the hope of provoking exactly the type of response Baldwin provided. MSNBC initially suspended him for two weeks before deciding, again in the face of an onslaught of criticism from organized gay groups to cancel his show.

Leading the charge against Baldwin was prominent gay blogger Andrew Sullivan, who called Baldwin “a raging, violent bigot” and Rich Ferraro, spokesman for GLAAD, the principal, long-time, gay, anti-defamation fighters, and the target also of Baldwin’s accusation. “You've got the fundamentalist wing of gay advocacy — Rich Ferraro and Andrew Sullivan — they're out there, they've got you,” Baldwin told a magazine. “Rich Ferraro, this is probably one of his greatest triumphs. They killed my show. And I have to take some responsibility for that myself."

Also quick to anger, I have exploded similarly over the years, as some proud men do at the risk of seeming aggressive. You know the type, jaw extended, looking to get punched. But ask yourself how you would you react if someone was trying to get you to act out. Baldwin is a vulnerable setup itching to hit back. So was Phil Robertson. A born-again Christian with a naïve openness. He told the GQ interviewer what every unsophisticated, or overtrusting, evangelical Christian will tell about his previous sinning ways and how the world of more than half century ago really was. Do you think what he said about his God sounds any crazier than what anybody else thinks? We all have our creationist myths.

Like I told my right-wing friend and colleague Sean Hannity Thursday night on his show, I voted for Obama because he was the candidate most likely to honor gay marriage. Liberal Baldwin has been one of the most consistently pro-gay public figures around. The blurted crazy talk from Baldwin and Robertson was benign and said with sincerity. Theirs had none of the mean-spirited creepiness of Martin Bashir’s defecation-laced tirade directed at former governor Sarah Palin. GLAAD doesn’t do itself any favors attacking Phil Robertson. He’s a beloved figure who got hoodwinked by a clever reporter, who allowed Phil to be himself.

Phil and Alex, two sitting ducks.

Geraldo Rivera currently serves as a roaming correspondent-at-large for Fox News Channel. He joined the network in 2001 as a war correspondent.