'Duck Dynasty' to resume filming with Phil Robertson after A&E lifts ban
The "Duck Dynasty" family says they are excited to return to work after A&E Network announced Friday it would resume filming their hit show with Phil Robertson next spring in a reversal of its decision last week to suspend him for comments he made about homosexuality.
In an exclusive statement to FoxNews.com, the family said it was "excited to keep making a quality TV show for our dedicated fans, who have showed us wonderful support. We will continue to represent our faith and values in the most positive way through 'Duck Dynasty' and our many projects that we are currently working on.
"The outpouring of support and prayer has encouraged and emboldened us greatly."
Robertson had been indefinitely suspended by the network on Dec. 18 for remarks he made in an interview with GQ Magazine.
The removal of the 67-year-old family patriarch triggered support from gay rights organizations but objections from many fans of the show, including political figures such as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
The fifth season of the family series originally had been scheduled to start Jan. 15 but until Friday’s announcement, its future had been uncertain, since the family had said it could not imagine going forward without Robertson.
In a statement released late Friday afternoon, A&E said, “While Phil's comments made in the (GQ) interview reflect his personal views based on his own beliefs, and his own personal journey, he and his family have publicly stated they regret the ‘coarse language’ he used and the misinterpretation of his core beliefs based only on the article. He also made it clear he would ‘never incite or encourage hate.’"
The network added that “Duck Dynasty is not a show about one man's views. It resonates with a large audience because it is a show about family, a family that America has come to love. As you might have seen in many episodes, they come together to reflect and pray for unity, tolerance and forgiveness. These are three values that we at A&E Networks also feel strongly about.
“So after discussions with the Robertson family, as well as consulting with numerous advocacy groups, A&E has decided to resume filming Duck Dynasty later this spring with the entire Robertson family.”
“Duck Dynasty” is the top-rated reality program on cable, according to the Hollywood Reporter, with an average 13.4 million viewers and a marketing franchise in such outlets as Walmart, Sears and Cracker Barrel restaurants – which briefly removed the “Dynasty” items after Robertson’s suspension.
In a statement Friday night to Fox News, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination said "dialog" between Robertson and the black and gay communities was a critical next step.
"Phil Robertson should look African-American and gay people in the eyes and hear about the hurtful impact of praising Jim Crow laws and comparing gay people to terrorists," the statement said. "If dialog with Phil is not part of next steps, then A&E has chosen profits over African-American and gay people -- especially its employees and viewers.
Jindal released a statement Friday night saying, "I am glad to hear that the folks at A&E came to their senses and recognized that tolerance of religious views is more important than political correctness. Today is a good day for the freedoms of speech and religious liberty."
Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said in a statement following A&E's announcement, “The attacks on Phil Robertson revealed to the American people that the push to redefine marriage is less about the marriage altar than it is fundamentally altering America's moral, political and cultural landscape.
"A&E Network’s reversal in the face of backlash is quite telling to the American people who are growing tired of GLAAD and cultural elites who want to silence people and remove God and His word from every aspect of public life."
Fox News' Todd Starnes contributed to this report.