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It's a late Christmas gift for "Duck Dynasty" fans: Just nine days after placing star Phil Robertson on indefinite suspension following his controversial remarks in an interview with GQ, A&E has reversed its decision and reinstated the patriarch, effective immediately.
And since no filming for the show has taken place in those nine days, Phil won't miss a single episode.
Here's A&E's official statement, in full:
As a global media content company, A+E Networks’ core values are centered around creativity, inclusion and mutual respect. We believe it is a privilege for our brands to be invited into people’s home and we operate with a strong sense of integrity and deep commitment to these principals.
That is why we reacted so quickly and strongly to a recent interview with Phil Robertson. While Phil’s comments made in the 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 mis-interpretation of his core beliefs based only on the article. He also made it clear he would “never incite or encourage hate.” We at A+E Networks expressed our disappointment with his statements in the article, and reiterate that they are not views we hold.
But 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.
We will also use this moment to launch a national public service campaign (PSA) promoting unity, tolerance and acceptance among all people, a message that supports our core values as a company, and the values found in Duck Dynasty. These PSAs will air across our entire portfolio.
Alan Robertson, Phil's pastor son, gave a statement to E! News on behalf of his family following the decision: "Our family has become even closer through the past 9 days and we are 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."
Conservative groups that called for Robertson's reinstatement are applauding the move, including Faith Driven Consumer, the organization behind the "I Stand With Phil" petition that amassed more than 260,000 signatures. But a statement from founder Chris Stone made it clear they're not done holding A&E's feet to the fire just yet.
"Despite our celebration, we remain uncertain of A&E's true intent. Today, in the network’s statement of their core values — centered on ‘creativity, inclusion, and mutual respect’ — Faith Driven Consumers are left wondering whether A&E considers us to be a part of America's rich rainbow of diversity. Do they also now embrace the biblically based values and worldview held by the Robertson family and millions of Faith Driven Consumers? Did the network’s engagement and consultation with 'numerous advocacy groups’ include Faith Driven Consumers? We eagerly anticipate A&E’s naming of those groups to ensure that our community was included.”
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal applauded the reinstatement as well: "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."
Also celebrating the decision: the group behind Chick-Phil-A National Support Day, which calls for Robertson supporters to dine at Chick-Fil-A in camoflauge gear on Jan. 21. In a Facebook post, they call A&E's reversal "a win for us," but maintain they've "got a big battle ahead in the greater picture of this culture war being waged against us!"
Gay-rights advocacy group GLAAD, who made headlines by criticizing Robertson's comments and commending A&E for suspending him, had stern words for A&E following today's decision: "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. If dialogue 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."
Obviously, the war of words here is far from over... especially considering the very public flip-flop A&E has made just nine days after strongly condemning Robertson's words themselves.
The financial realities here speak loud and clear, though: "Duck Dynasty" is far and away A&E's biggest hit, with more than 10 million viewers tuning in to watch the Robertsons (including Phil) hunt, laugh, and pray together as a family. And with the Robertsons hinting that they wouldn't continue the show without Phil, A&E may have decided they couldn't afford to let their most valuable franchise fly the coop.
"Duck Dynasty" returns with all-new episodes Wednesday, Jan. 15 at 10 p.m. on A&E.