"Duck Dynasty" family members say they are considering withdrawing from the series over A&E's suspension of patriarch Phil Robertson for anti-gay comments, joining many conservatives leaping to his defense.
Robertson, the patriarch of the backwater Louisiana clan on the reality show about hunting, fishing and domestic squabbles, was put on indefinite "hiatus" by A&E for his remarks to GQ magazine characterizing homosexuality as sinful behavior.
"We have had a successful working relationship with A&E but, as a family, we cannot imagine the show going forward without our patriarch at the helm," said the statement, which was released on the Robertsons' "Duck Commander" website. "We are in discussions with A&E to see what that means for the future of 'Duck Dynasty.'"
The statement said the Robertsons have "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 are disappointed that Phil has been placed on hiatus for expressing his faith, which is his constitutionally protected right.... Again, thank you for your continued support of our family."
Reaction to Robertson's comments was swift from across the political spectrum with gay rights group GLAAD condemning the remarks while conservative politicians defended Robertson.
"Free speech is an endangered species: Those 'intolerants' hatin' & taking on Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing personal opinion take on us all," tweeted Palin.
Jindal, also a Republican and possible 2016 U.S. presidential candidate, criticized A&E's reaction and described Robertson and his family, who turned their animal-call company Duck Commander into a hunting industry leader, as "great citizens of the State of Louisiana."
"The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with," Jindal said in a statement.
"You can see your politics whether you see this as an issue of hate speech or free speech," said Craig Detweiler, a professor at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, who specializes in media and religion. "What you see is conservatives pushing back on social pluralism."
GLAAD representative Wilson Cruz responded to Robertson's remarks with a statement:
"Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil's lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe. He clearly knows nothing about gay people or the majority of Louisianans -- and Americans -- who support legal recognition for loving and committed gay and lesbian couples.
"Phil's decision to push vile and extreme stereotypes is a stain on A&E and his sponsors who now need to reexamine their ties to someone with such public disdain for LGBT people and families."
Former "American Idol" contestant Clay Aiken also offered his thoughts on the scandal, saying that such comments and attitudes are "built out of fear."
Aiken made the statement on "The Arsenio Hall Show" on Thursday, telling his former "Celebrity Apprentice" castmate that Robertson’s comments prove that society still has "a long way to go" in accepting homosexuality.
"I think it certainly shows that we've got a long way to go when it comes to people being accepting and understanding," Aiken, who came out as gay in 2008, said. "Homophobia, racism …. all of it's built out of fear. All of it's out of fear. And if you grow up in an area like Louisiana and you're not exposed to diversity, then you can be afraid of things."
Robertson critical of gay in 2010 speech
Robertson made similar remarks in a religious speech given two years before the series began its run on cable network A&E.
The speech posted on video-sharing website YouTube in February 2010 shows Robertson addressing a supper at Berean Bible Church in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, and condemning homosexuals in the 45-minute talk that touched on the U.S. Constitution and secularization of American society.
"They (homosexuals) committed indecent acts with one another," said Robertson, clad in his usual camouflage, in the video posted on the church's YouTube page, which has drawn fresh attention in the wake of Robertson's suspension from one of the most-watched shows on cable television.
"And they received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion," he added. "They're full of murder, envy, strife, hatred. They are insolent, arrogant God haters. They are heartless. They are faithless. They are senseless. They are ruthless. They invent ways of doing evil."
Robertson, the patriarch of the Louisiana clan on the reality show about hunting, fishing and domestic squabbles, was put on indefinite "hiatus" by A&E on Wednesday for his remarks to GQ magazine characterizing homosexuality as sinful behavior.
A spokeswoman for A&E, a joint cable network venture of Walt Disney Co and privately held Hearst Corp, did not immediately return a message seeking comment about whether A&E knew about Robertson's earlier comments on homosexuality.