‘Duck Dynasty’ Suspension: Free Speech Doesn’t Mean Consequence-Free Speech

Phil Robertson Duck Dynasty

Phil Robertson is entitled to speak his mind; that doesn't mean he can't pay a price for it

Do we really need this civics lesson again?

In the wake of “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson’s suspension from the A&E program for anti-gay comments in a magazine interview, a Christian group and conservative watchdog the Media Research Center (part of Brent Bozell’s empire of indignation) have denounced the network for engaging in censorship.

“TV networks might claim they support free speech, but the suspension of ‘Duck Dynasty’ star Phil Robertson shows that to be an utter lie,” the MRC said in a statement.

The irony here, of course, is that it was the very same sort of groups that pioneered this approach, dating back 20 years with the economic pressure campaign waged against “NYPD Blue” by targeting ABC affiliates and advertisers.

All of which goes to show that “censorship” is one of those terms generally used conveniently, when somebody says or does something with which you disagree.

So let’s rehash the basics, just for those new to the party: Robertson has every right to say whatever he wants. And A&E, as his employer in this particular enterprise, has every right to respond to those statements with some form of discipline if the company feels Robertson’s actions will negatively impact its bottom line or run counter to its values.

Personally, it would be nice if the whole “Fire people for saying stupid things” industry calmed down a little — particularly in regard to entertainers. Being on TV or in movies doesn’t require a master’s degree in political science, and it’s not always clear why someone’s personal views, goofy or otherwise, have any bearing on their job performance.

Nevertheless, it’s hard to feel too sorry for anyone involved, including Robertson or A&E. After all, the network and producers gave the extended family a showcase precisely so they could go out and play sitcom-style rubes and rednecks. So it’s a little disingenuous to express shock when one of them actually goes off script and articulates homophobic views that are widely shared among religious conservatives who flock to the show. (Robertson’s defenders will note that his remarks were based on Scripture, but in practical terms, they can be faith-based and still sound homophobic.)

Given what we already know about the Robertsons, one can argue that A&E could have distanced itself from the comments and condemned them and left it at that. By that measure, the network appears to be acting out of principle, although any response was going to rile somebody.

Still, without sounding too cynical about it, one suspects with this much money at stake the parties will resolve this — and keep the “Duck” gravy train rolling with barely a hitch in its get-along.

The main beneficiary of this flare-up, meanwhile, is the media, which has been presented a juicy controversy regarding a highly rated show to chew over during what’s usually a dead time in the calendar. And yes, present company included.

Just to be clear, though, nobody is “censoring” Phil Robertson’s right to speak his mind. As for those who share his views threatening to boycott A&E for suspending him, that, too, is their right, and by all means, they should feel free to do so. Just as those offended by the remarks are free to turn “Duck” off. Maybe even try watching a sitcom where all the dialogue is scripted, and not just the scenarios.

See? Is this a great country, or what?

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  1. casualsuede says:

    The issue is that A&E needs these guys more than the other way around. IMO, they can fire Phil Robertson for any reason (I bet he works “at will” and that A&E probably has clauses that protect them from a celebrity that goes off the rails).

    But they will shoot themselves in the foot, if they let these guys go. Like Cracker Barrel, the people who watch Duck Dynasty are the ones who watch A&E.

    I think it’s A&E playing with fire here.

  2. Free Speech is greater than the 1st Amendment and predates it by more than 100 years. If your employer can terminate your employment for something you say (unrelated to and away from work), then Free Speech is an illusion in America. The “marketplace of ideas” belief holds that the truth will emerge out of the competition of ideas in free, transparent public discourse. The English poet John Milton suggested that restricting speech was not necessary because “in a free and open encounter,” truth would prevail. Free Speech means tolerating unpopular opinions and ideas.

  3. Kristin says:

    Free speech pertains to the fact that the government cannot take away a person’s right to free speech. A&E is not part of the government. It is their right, as an employer, to suspend or fire who they want.

  4. Julienne says:

    Hypocrites once again. The people that preach “Tolerance” are once again “Intolerant.” Go figure.

    Nobody’s making you watch…bunch of hypocritical numbskulls.

    • ian says:

      The “why aren’t you tolerant of my intolerance” line that DD supporters keep throwing out is actually the dumbest thing you could ever say. If someone were to make a racist comment, and people reacted negatively, would you still be talking about how people aren’t being tolerant of your god awful opinions?

    • Ontor Pertawst says:

      What’s hypocritical about making fun of this bigoted sack of slime? You guys go nuts when lib’ruls say things that offend your delicate sensibilities. We’re all allowed to call each other idiots, so go bask in your freedom. Idiot.

  5. John Stevens says:

    The title may be true in essence… But your article is far from reality.
    Mr. Lowry if any one who speaks his mind freely could suffer being fired -as you have claimed, then no one will speak his mind again -except the few. Hence your formula is invalid.

    • ian says:

      Uh, yes you can be fired for saying terrible things at any job. Do you not understand that the interview he did was PR for his show? Therefore, he was on the clock for A&E? Go into your job tomorrow, and start telling people you deal with about your fantastic opinions on gays and blacks pre civil rights, and we’ll see how long you have a job.

  6. James says:

    Please don take mah duck DAAHNUSTY away! Aah prayed and prayed for A&E to come to their sintses but the devils grip is BUT TOO TIGHT!
    Listen everybody knows that Duck DAAHNUSTY is a tight moral bible show and the good lord above has ordained them because the almighty sees fit that this fine INTELIGINT suksesfull family come on the teevee and teach mah kids a thing or too about GOOD CHRISTIAN BEELEFS.
    Homosex-shalls are WRUNG! Just dead WRUNG! Y’all darn well know GAWD created ADAM and EVE NOT ADAM and STEEVE! haha y’all like at? That’s mah very own joke! Don’t y’all steal it now- cause stealing is a SIN! And if you AINT a homosex-shall but yoo steele- you R still gon’ burn in the lake of FIRESTONE! Aaaah, ah mean BRIMSTONE! Sawry I was just think in I needa gown down to Bobby-Ray jrs and git mah TARS fixed fer WINNUR.
    But I tri-gress,
    Phil’s Uh-MEND-mints wer VILATED!!! God dern it, y’all know eet was! Them GURLY boys cryin cause he say what he’s thinkin and them LIBERALLS cryin cause we ain’t gonna take it no Moore! I’m fixin to finish this case of Budwizer then go MUDDIN! But right after that ima take mah kids and go pray the homosex-shalls at A&E fall tonite while they’re at there little disco dances and break their heads open! Then ahma pray GAWD fixes there heads and straten them out!

  7. Eric says:

    I hope all of you who are decrying this as censorship thought it was just as bad when people decried Ellen for coming out on national television. Or when the episode of Roseanne that involved the same-sex kiss aired (which some network stations censored by not airing.) Because to do otherwise would make you, oh I don’t know…hypocritical?

  8. You have the right of freedom of speech just like your adversaries have their right to freedom of speech but that doesn’t give them the right to tell one of you that you have to leave the program. That’s ridiculous. If someone spoke against a God fearing and loving person, we wouldn’t go jump off a bridge and then say to the other well, because you hurt that persons feelings and you are the cause of that person wanting to kill himself, you have to be eliminated. It is our own responsibility to work out our own problems due to someone else not agreeing with us. They can just agree to disagree if they choose to . But we ALL have a right to our own opinion. He was giving Gods opinion of the matter which just so happened to be his opinion as well as he agrees with God. Getting rid of one of the cast members is never going to remove that homosexual mans problems. We are not upset why should he be? He needs to take it up with God. God said it not the man. No issues please!

  9. Ryan says:

    Hah, America loves these guys and A&E messed up. These guys have grounded morals, but will not shoot another show because their Dad was attacked for expressing his beliefs. A&E’s values will be ever changing and this cowardous move was not even a smart business one. Thank GOD for these guys and wake up America, funny how they attack those who don’t hate this country!

    • Eric says:

      Hmmm…just like Roseanne and Ellen were for episodes that includes a same-sex kiss or a person coming out (respectively). Only difference is that their networks stood behind them. And several local affiliates censored the above-mentioned episodes by not airing them. The difference? Before yesterday, I didn’t know who Phil Robertson even was (I only knew Duck Dynasty as one of those tabloid reality shows that are a dime a dozen), as opposed to having known who Roseanne and Ellen were years before their shows even started.

  10. SFC L says:

    The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is a multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 16 December 1966, and in force from 23 March 1976. It commits its parties to respect the civil and political rights of individuals, including the right to life, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, electoral rights and rights to due process and a fair trial. As of May 2013, the Covenant had 74 signatories and 167 parties.[1]

    Part 3 (Articles 6 – 27) lists the rights themselves. These include rights to physical integrity, in the form of the right to life and freedom from torture and slavery (Articles 6, 7, and 8); liberty and security of the person, in the form of freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention and the right to habeas corpus
    (Articles 9 – 11); procedural fairness in law, in the form of rights to due process, a fair and impartial trial, the presumption of innocence, and recognition as a person before the law (Articles 14, 15, and 16);
    individual liberty, in the form of the freedoms of movement, thought, conscience and religion, speech, association and assembly, family rights, the right to a nationality, and the right to privacy (Articles 12, 13, 17 – 24);

    The United states ratified the ICCPR with certain exceptions:
    Where a treaty or covenant is not self-executing, and where Congress has not acted to implement the agreement with legislation, no private right of action within the U.S. judicial system is created by ratification.[77] Thus while the ICCPR is binding upon the United States as a matter of international law, it does not form part of the domestic law of the nation.

    That’s because the United States already has such laws of the nation in effect. In the form of the United States Constitution!

    Thusly, A&E are not only in violation of the Constitution of the United States governing Freedom of Speech, they are also in violation of the International Law of Freedom of Speech.

    Even if A&E attempt to use political, monetary, or media influence by stating “Free Speech Doesn’t Mean Consequence-Free Speech” the very sentence depicts RETRIBUTION, which is punishable by both International and National Law. Period!

    Phil Robertson, get a National and International legal team and make a statement that will stop this type of ridiculousness!

    • oceansofcake says:

      Using the UN to defend a conservative’s statements on homosexuality and segregation? That’s a new one.

    • Jacques Strappe says:

      It is your ridiculousness on display here. A&E is a privately held corporation (jointly owned by Disney and Hearst) and can suspend or fire any employee who doesn’t adequately represent their values and brand. Period. It’s all spelled out in the Duck contract.

    • John Shea says:

      Except the Constitutional and international rights you outline are our rights over Government only. A & E is not the government of the USA or anywhere else. No government has censored Phil Robertson. And anti-gay commenters here and elsewhere have threatened all kinds of retribution against A & E and others who defend gay people’s rights.

  11. Sarah says:

    Bingo! My sentiments exactly. What you do outside working hours should be your own business–everyone needs private time for their own opinions. However, Lisa G., according to Pew (http://religions.pewforum.org/reports), only 78% of our country–not 99%–are Christian. Of those 78%, many aren’t hard-core “traditional values” types. 16% of Americans are “not affiliated” with religion–this includes atheists, agnostics, people who are just not interested. Moreover, it’s this latter group that is growing. My concerns have more to do with what Bruce says about the silencing of people’s voices–we don’t want to become Stalinists!

  12. Jacques Strappe says:

    In Mr. Roberts interview he explains that he is a product of the sex and drug crazed 60’s and then he found Jesus later in life. It’s not entirely clear to me whether he found A&E’s multi million dollar contract before or after Jesus. One thing is certain, Mr. Roberts attended the same school of television political (as in speaking before thinking) as fellow charming redneck, Paula Deen, In spite of their exaggerated drawls and over the top folksy expressions and mannerisms both of these reality celebrities are intelligent and filthy rich enough to understand their respective (former) employers’ values, mission statements and broad audiences. Political correctness and speaking one’s mind are not mutually exclusive even as influenced by one’s strong Christian beliefs. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that a large viewing segment of the Arts and Entertainment Network is gay, not to mention those employed by the network. Mr. Roberts is an employee of the A&E network and consequently a representative of the A&E brand under contract. Biting the hand that bankrolls you millions carries consequences, indeed. Keep religion and political discussions among family and close friends, not journalists.

  13. Michael Jaffe says:

    It’s pretty interesting that the right felt ok about firing the guy who said nasty things about Sarah Palin but with the duck guy it’s a free speech violation. Can’t have it both ways. MJ

    • Julienne says:

      Once again, you’re missing the point. Stating your own beliefs… ie: Sharing the Gospel

      Is quite different, from saying “I want to take a shit in Sarah’s mouth.” Don’t you think? Obviously not.

    • Jacques Strappe says:

      Don’t get me wrong, I am opposed to everything for which Palin claims to stand and I think she is one great fraud skilled at only manipulation and dressing a moose. The firing of the dude who used the vile adjective to describe Palin, was beyond unprofessional.. What galls me about those defending Robertson’s right to free speech is justifying it just because it interpreted scripture from the bible, written when the earth was considered flat and stoning was the rage. Good times. A&E has as much right to respond to Robertson’s comments as he does to speak them.

  14. Lisa_G. says:

    It’s not about free speech, Brian. It’s about, we’re sick and tired of homosexuality being propagated as perfectly normal by a microcosm of Hollywood Christophobe Zionists’ attempts to undermine and destroy the traditional core values and beliefs of 99% of the country.

    • Jacques Strappe says:

      At least 10% of the population is reported to be gay so your 99% purely Christian / 100% completely virtuous segment could be off, without even addressing the Jews, Muslims, atheists, agnostics and “other” categories. The bible was written when the world was believed to be flat and stoning was the preferred form of punishment; maybe its time to revisit those ideas, too and take back our country to those good ole days.

    • jsm1963 says:

      You grossly overestimate your support.

  15. Scuba Girl says:

    Lost in all of the uproar over what Phil said about gays are his ‘happy, smiling darkies’ comments. Those are even worse than what he said about gays. He should have been suspended for those alone.

  16. joedsavage says:

    Amazing how people are up in arms over this issue more so than 9/11 and sandy hook hoax. Maybe we should thank the punks at a&e for making people start to see what s happened to this country and how far morals and government have sunk.

    • Scuba Girl says:

      Sandy Hook hoax? Stop listening to nut bars like Alex Jones, mmkay?

      • joedsavage says:

        Lol i dont care what you or alex jones say. Get ypur head out of the sand. Just watch the robbie parker interview gives one day after his non existing daughter was killed. Check it out onyouube if you have the guts. Enjoy.

  17. John Shea says:

    The Scriptural basis for Phil Robertson’s critique of homosexuality is shaky, to say the least. What he translates as ‘homosexual offenders’ may mean ‘sissies’ at most but even that translation is inexact and debated.

    • Eric Smith says:

      You are referring to scriptural warfare.Where a non-christian takes Christian texts, like those written in the bible and attempts to change or subvert them to promote your agenda, not prove fact or fiction.Which is why you have a bunch of so-called Christian’s who practice homosexuality, claiming to be christian and telling the world what they do is okay with God.

  18. These duck people just don’t understand how things work.

  19. Bruce says:

    Punishing people for speaking freely will impose silence on everyone. Free speech ends when silence is enforced by retribution. If we cannot speak freely outside the workplace, we cannot speak openly at all. We will be forced into carefully guarded speech with everyone we meet. We will never be certain that someone will turn us over to an enforcer of the correct point of view. It is happening in workplaces all across the country due to lawsuits and forced compliance by the companies. Now, apparently, we can be punished for speaking freely anywhere. Soon, the only people with the freedom to air their views without restrictions will be the media. They will give us shows about psychotic killers such as Hannibal Lecter while silencing people who violate a national orthodoxy of correct thinking and speech. When my freedom ends, yours is endangered also, and that sense will spread everywhere, including to those in the media. They will have masters too, if they don’t already.

  20. “Phil Robertson is entitled to speak his mind; that doesn’t mean he can’t pay a price for it…”
    Also doesn’t mean that A&E Networks can’t pay a price for their decision either. Consequences work both ways.

  21. Why is it that anyone has an opinion about this at all. He’s a human being and he can speak what he feels and if you want to watch the show watch the show. The political angle on any of this is ridiculous the truth is whatever cells will be on television bottom line. The truth is watch the Internet and get your information where you wanted to be in the entertainment by what you like in the privacy of your own home keep politics and religion and everything else out of your view unless you want to be bored. Everything is professional wrestling

  22. the truth truth says:

    This whole fake news story is a leftwing smokescreen to cover for obamacare’s continuing failure.

  23. Mike says:

    Man am i sick of the homos and their BS.

  24. Centurian says:

    The article is right, unless you support immorality of the gay lifestyle and abortion then the left will shut you down. Love their view of the word tolerance.

  25. Just Confused says:

    Call me a “Bible Thumper” if you like. That’s your right to freedom of speech IN THIS country. But I am reminded of the old admonishment:


    IF we were talking about “verbal stones” the ensuing silence would be deafening. These days, it seems it is Politically Correct now to preach “tolerance”….well for the people one ALREADY AGREES WITH anyway. PC means Pander to the Crowd in control of the purse strings and it changes to reflect prevailing thought. PC is just what is CURRENTLY “in” and can and does swing in any direction that is “convenient” for the moment.

    Anybody wanna look up the definition of “Hypocrite”? Or is that a Politically Incorrect “H” Word these days? ;+)

    • Eric Smith says:

      Yea, that is real informative thought process you got going on over there.Here is the thing, being a sinner no one is free from that burden.I sin, you sin, and someone else sins.But I am not gonna pat the guy on my left on the back, and tell him “way to go brother, keep sinning” which is why no moral, upright Christian is gonna tell you that the sin that you have chosen to make a lifestyle, “a daily thing”, is acceptable.Because, God did after all send his son Jesus Christ to die for my sins, so if I never repented or stopped committing them via a lifestyle then i wouldn’t really be turning away from sin, i would just be the liar who wants to ride on some-else s faith, so i can be a dirty sodomite and still be right with God.

  26. JJ Jones says:

    Not supporting the gay lifestyle or not believing in gay marriage does not make one homophobic or a bigot.

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