Phil Robertson, Duck Dynasty, and Why This is NOT a Free Speech Issue

robertsonThe one thing that is crystal clear to me in the wake of this whole Duck Dynasty flap (flap…ducks…get it??) is some people in this country have a completely misguided view of the First Amendment.

If you haven’t heard yet, Phil Robertson – patriarch of A&E’s Duck Dynasty show – was quoted in GQ saying some not-so-flattering things about homosexuality. That Robertson feels this way is unsurprising, given that he’s a 67-year-old camo-clad uber Christian from the backwaters of Louisiana. He called being gay an illogical sin — a sentiment I completely disagree with but frankly, I’ve heard far worse.

But he wasn’t content to just stop there. When asked what, specifically, he considers sinful, Robertson said:

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

Got that? According to Robertson, if you start with a gay person the next logical step in the sin spiral is fornicating with an animal. Because those two things obviously go hand in hand and certainly should be mentioned in the same breath as one another.

Also, just for good measure, Robertson implies that African-Americans living in 1960s Louisiana were happier before all that pesky Civil Rights nonsense brought them legal rights and basic equality.

“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

Oh boy. Yikes.

The backlash from GLAAD was swift and justifiably upset. Then, as expected, came the corresponding backlash from the backlash courtesy of the Tea Party conservative Christian right, who hailed Robertson as a folk hero being criticized simply for spreading God’s message.

Honestly, I thought it would be a non-issue for A&E simply because Duck Dynasty draws 14 million viewers and is a cash cow to the network. I figured it would be a slap on the wrist for Robertson and then back to business. But late last night, A&E issued a statement condemning the star’s remarks and suspending him indefinitely from the show.

And that’s when the crazies really hit the roof.


That was the rallying cry of Twitter and Facebook last night, as Robertson’s supporters took to social media and lambasted the TV network for robbing Mr. Duck Dynasty of his First Amendment rights. This is but a small sampling.


Charming aren’t they?

Look, let’s boil this down to brass tacks. Phil Robertson didn’t lose his freedom of speech or any of his first amendment rights. This is evident by the mere fact that he took advantage of his freedom to say exactly how he felt in the GQ article. Robertson’s rights are intact and he is free to spew forth all kinds of bigotry and intolerance that is masked in the cloak of religion.

And while free speech ensures Robertson will not be locked up for expressing his religious beliefs, it does not mean everyone has to sit by and let it go unchallenged. It does not mean A&E has to keep him on as an employee if they feel he is degrading their brand.

But most importantly, freedom of speech does not mean saying whatever hateful things you want without any consequences.

Phil Robertson is an employee of A&E. And when an employee — any employee — starts calling an entire segment of the population illogical sinners and comparing their love life to people fornicating with animals, that employee is taking a risk.

If I maligned a whole group of people  for no other reason than their sexual orientation in a major media publication, I’d be fired. Most of us would. I have the right and the freedom to do so, but I go into that knowing I’m risking my job. The same is true for Robertson. That’s why I don’t feel bad for a second, nor do I think anyone’s rights or basic freedoms are being curtailed.

Unlike the right for gay people to have marriage equality in a majority of US states.

And please spare me the poor persecuted Christians act. More than three-quarters of the population identifies as Christian, making Christians the overwhelming majority. It’s why I have to put up with nativity scenes and prayer booths on town property, and why my child is taught to say “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. For Christians to claim they are somehow a persecuted minority is the most laughable and ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.

But the saddest part about all this is I know how it will all play out.

Look at the hashtags on Twitter: #istandwithphil and #isupportphil. His core demographic will take this opportunity to get behind morons like Sarah Palin, and the show will probably experience a groundswell of support in this aftermath. It’ll be similar to how people supported Chick-fil-a after their homophobic statements. And it’ll sicken me to watch a large portion of the American public rally around bigotry and intolerance, masquerading as a misguided effort to retain free speech.

Imagine for a second if everyone rallied around gay people who simply want the right to marry one another in peace. To enjoy the legal recognition straight people never have to worry about. To not be turned away in hospital rooms while checking on their partners, and to be able to receive American flags at funerals when they lose partners who are military veterans.

Imagine if we placed a greater emphasis on helping one another instead of so fervently defending Phil Robertson’s right to be a bigot in the name of God.

I don’t want to take away Phil Robertson’s right to voice his opinion. But as long as his opinion is one of nastiness that is used to help deny gay people equal rights under the law, I will continue to speak up against it. And I will never sit idly by and tolerate intolerant opinions.

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20 thoughts on “Phil Robertson, Duck Dynasty, and Why This is NOT a Free Speech Issue

  1. A&E quote “His personal views in no way reflect those of A&E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. Enough said,let the ratings decide the outcome.

  2. Wow, just wow. This may be the greatest thing I have read on the topic. You have hit the nail directly on the head. This all reeks of PR stunt to me. Honestly, if A&E are truly displeased with Phil, I bet it has more to do with the racist statements he made as opposed to things he said that can be chalked up to religion. This is the first article I have seen that gave any information outside of the religious aspects of what he said. My wife and I have felt the entire Duck Dynasty phenom was a sham from the beginning. I truly believe that what we see on TV are backroom developed personas. Are we really supposed to believe that a small handful of guys ( that are mostly goofing off and having good ole boy adventures) and one Semi are keeping a multi-million dollar business thriving? Who is filling all the orders? It has been constantly plastered all over social media that the show’s stars are constantly being persecuted for their beliefs, yet the show is building ratings and followers with no actual talk of cancellation. One of the worst examples I’ve seen happened only minutes ago. A meme on FB stated that Phil was fired from the show for saying this: “Bla bla”. I wont bother typing the complete misquote. None of what was quoted on the meme was said in the GQ article. This whole thing is about sparking up the Christians, because we all know how quickly they rally out in support of their idols being religiously persecuted. A&E and the Dynasty have taken the Chik-fil-A PR model to the next level, and the masses are buying it hook, line, and sinker. Most of what you see are posts about showing support through purchasing merchandise. It absolutely blows my mind that these country club yuppies have duped so many people; a handful of the populous, sure, but millions of people are flooding the Robertson family trust fund. I just wish they could be exposed for the fraud they are. Of course, this is just how I see the situation from deducing all the information available, and if I am wrong I would be quite surprised.

  3. I believe this is a Freedom of Speech issue. Saying that this man should be kicked off a tv show just because he doesn’t believe in a way of life, or multiple ways of life is ridiculous. That would be like me kicking you off the internet for disagreeing with him. I don’t agree with what this man said at all but I am a vet and fought for this man to say what ever he wants without any repercussion. You say he deserves what he gets and people that say that you can say what you want but should be punished for what you say right? Well where is the Freedom in that? That sounds a lot like someone telling another person if you speak out on what you believe something will happen to you and that in my opinion is tyranny at its best. This is a man with an opinion that’s all it doesn’t even effect anybody its just something he believes. The people at wetborogh Baptist church protest Soldiers deaths and nothing happens to them why is that? The Soldiers they protest give them and their family’s a blanket of freedom to sleep under every night. You don’t hear any crying or complaining about this from a major organization because people know it is ignorant. So why the fuss over what one man thinks???? Why make it such a big deal? Let him believe and speak about what ever he wants it is his right as a human and his right as an American and if you think he should be punished for something like stating what he believes you should check your moral compass I suppose.
    Jason Boe recently posted..Phil Robertson, Duck Dynasty, and Why This is NOT a Free Speech IssueMy Profile

  4. Jason, here’s the deal. Phil will still have his multi million dollar business. A&E is merely choosing to punish Phil and not air his bigotry. Which, by the way, is well within their rights. Phil is not being jailed for speaking his beliefs. Let me ask you this. Do you think Don Imus should have been fired for his comments during the girl’s basketball game? Freedom of speech does not give you Carte Blanche my friend.

  5. What I like is how people are willing to revolt over a reality star losing their TV job only to go back to being an ordinary millionaire, but pretty much have no stance or ability to motivate themselves to turn this country around. China is waging a manufacturing war against us, our government is treating us like commodities, but dammit Duck Commander Co. needs more money. We truly are screwed as a nation.

  6. Jason: You’re only half right. Yes you fought for this man to have the right to say what he wants (and thank you for your service by the way). But you did NOT fight for people to say what they want without any repercussions. That’s just crazy. The things we say ALWAYS have repercussions. The right to free speech doesn’t absolve you of the consequences of what you say.

    My moral compass is fine. I’m not the one degrading gay people for no reason. If you really think we have the right to say anything we want with no repercussions, then it’s your morals that need adjusting.
    Daddy Files recently posted..Phil Robertson, Duck Dynasty, and Why This is NOT a Free Speech IssueMy Profile

  7. Great post. I didn’t understand from the beginning why people think that this isn’t an employment issue, not a free speech issue. A&E is perfectly within their rights to suspend someone for actions they don’t want associated with their brand. He’s not the first “star” to be suspended for something like this.
    Mona Darling recently posted..The Weird KidMy Profile

  8. Well said and well written. My personal view is there are no clean hands in this. I do not agree with or support what Phil Robertson said. He does have a right to say it and believe it but I do not see how those rights have been taken away or restricted here, and A&E has the right to suspend or fire him, take him off the air. But, A&E also can’t act like they are surprised by this. They knew who this guy was from the start, put him on the air and loved his ratings. They did not care about his views and were happy to cash in on them until it became a PR mess for them, and they suddenly act disappointed. Robertson looks like a narrow minded fool and A&E looks like greedy hypocrites trying to fool the public. Shame on them both.

    Mark McNulty
    The New American Dad

  9. The people who keep shouting about this being a free speech issue clearly don’t understand that free speech is not unlimited.

    You can’t shout fire in a theater, you can’t advocate for the violent advocate of the government etc…

    Nothing new about that, that has been the law of the land for decades. Kind of sad to see how many people are willing to brush off his comments because they don’t have an impact on them.

    That not in my backyard mentality is damaging to all of us.
    Josh recently posted..Ghostwriting And Bar Mitzvah SpeechesMy Profile

  10. I DONT understand, with all the horrible things going on in our world, that THIS is the main topic of conversation. Yes, it would be miraculous if we all would love each other, but we all know that isn’t going to happen. Just try to leave things better than you found them, each within your own passion and beliefs. Can I get an amen??

  11. Freedom of speech is not free is false. You can say whatever you feel like saying as long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights of others period…… you can get in trouble for yelling fire in a public building because this causes a good possibility of getting someone injured.. which would go back to the point of infringing on their rights..

  12. This fool has had his brains pecked out by ducks.
    “That’s it, this marriage is over, and it’s all because of same sex marriage!”
    Said no straight couple ever.
    Why the hell anyone is worried about whether Joe Next Door is in love with a man, or Jane Down the Lane loves a woman is beyond me. I’m heterosexual. Some people are gay. Some people are bi. As long as all parties involved are consenting adults, who the hell cares?
    There are cases of incestuous attraction (I’m not talking about parents raping children, I’m talking about siblings in an equitable relationship) but they are rare enough that we really don’t need to concern ourselves with them. Allowing gay marriage most assuredly does not lead to the allowing of incestuous marriage. That slippery slope does not exist.
    Homosexuality is not a perversion, it is a legitimate sexual orientation. Most homosexual couples are not related to each other any more than most heterosexual couples are related to each other. Therefore, it is ridiculous and peculiar to assume that legalizing same sex marriage would lead to a marked rise in siblings wanting to bang each other. I cannot foresee, after some 45 years of being on this planet at the same time, me suddenly wanting to bang my brother because same sex marriage is legalized. I would be more likely to decide to have sex with an unrelated woman than sex with any man to whom I’m related, and I’m really not attracted to women.
    As to homosexuality leading to bestiality, this premise is just as ridiculous. Most homosexuals do not want to have sex with animals any more than most heterosexuals do. When’s the last time you heard a gay person preaching that we should all have sex with animals, because, well, you know, them gays is big perverts that will schtoink anything?
    The whole thing is ridiculous. Some people have really dirty minds.
    The ones who should be ashamed are those who are bashing innocent people whose only “crime” is being attracted to people of the same sex.

  13. I dont agree with everything he says but dont we all have a right to follow our own religion without persecution as long as it does not physically threaten or endanger the lives of others? Thats whats scary to me, he answered questions about his faith Outside of his workplace and was fired. If AE doesnt want their religion onair, then dont pick it up next season, but suspension implies punishment for practicing his faith and refusing to deny his belief in bible interpretation.

  14. Freedom of Speech is a right, but there isn’t a Right To Be Heard. Neither is there a Right To Remain On Your Television Show or a Right To Say Whatever You Want Without Consequences. This guy can say that gay marriage will lead to the apocalypse or whatever all he wants. He can scream to anyone that will listen how homosexual behavior is the worst thing in the world and how gays are evil sinners.

    We, however, don’t need to listen to him. A&E doesn’t need to continue providing him with a platform to spew his hatred. Heck, they could cancel his show at any time just because and the Duck Dynasty guys wouldn’t be able to cry about how their Freedom of Speech was infringed.

    A real Freedom of Speech infringement would be if he was arrested for saying his garbage. The only time someone should be arrested for hate speech (and, yes, I’d classify “gays are evil sinners” as hate speech since it vilifies a group) is when it’s accompanied by threats of violence (explicit or implied). If the Robertson had said he’d “deal with” gays the way he “deals with” ducks, this could be seen as a threat. Thankfully, he stopped short of this and so he’s free to make his idiotic comments. We just don’t need to listen.
    TechyDad recently posted..Christmas Traditions Old And NewMy Profile

  15. Just had to comment on the last sentence…. “And I will never sit idly by and tolerate intolerant opinions.” Ummm…. wouldn’t that be intolerant?

  16. From what I can tell at the moment, the main issue here is that free speech is free… but the consequences are not (read the fine print).

  17. I’m sick of the “Oh Noes. Someone’s freedom of speech is being infringed” whines from the dumb bigots in society. Of course they apply the argument selectively and hypocritically because either they’re too dumb to understand, or more likely because they want to pretend not to understand so they can feel special and persecuted.

    Seriously. If you think freedom of speech means you an say whatever you want and no one can do anything about it, and there will never be any consequences, then you need to go back and repeat your high school education and pay attention this time. Free speech is a right from the GOVERNMENT that they will not prevent you from saying what you think. Since the GOVERNMENT isn’t doing anything to stifle the speech of this guy, his rights have been preserved perfectly.

    Lets give some examples that aren’t the government infringing freedom of speech.

    If little Johnny says a naughty word are you infringing on little Johnny’s “freedom of speech” by washing out his mouth with soap? Of course you don’t really believe that and you’d never agree that it means that.

    If someone comes into your house and starts calling you names, do you have to allow them to stay in your home in order to preserve their “freedom of speech”? Of course you don’t believe that, either.

    So A&E can fire him, or slap him on the wrist, or give him a raise, or refuse to air his hate mongering, or make him apologize to keep his job, or do nothing. It’s their show and their media circus. It’s their network and they can run it the way they like. If that old redneck queen employee is acting up again, they have every right to deal with him as they see fit.

    If you went and said negative public things about your boss or in a magazine artilce about everyone you work with, do you think it’s your “free speech right” to not be suspended, fired or disciplined? Please go try it out and report back. It’s your homework for the night.

    Come back when you’ve learned about integrity and can apply the same standards to others that you use for yourself. If you wouldn’t whine about defending “free speech” when your kid swears at you, you don’t have a right to whine about free speech in this case, either.

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