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In the wake of the controversy surrounding Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson, some of the show's cast members said they would not proceed forward with the show without their patriarch. However, it's been revealed that they may not have a choice, given their contractual obligations to A&E.
"It's not as easy as just not returning to the show, since they all have binding agreements. It's the network's option, not theirs," an insider connected to the production told Fox News. "Plus the family makes far too much money selling merchandise because of the show. It would be a bad business decision to leave it."
It had been rumored that the contracts contained so-called morality clauses that allow the network to remove any cast member while still keeping others on the show.
"Often a show will suspend a cast member who does something controversial. This gives them the chance to disassociate themselves from the controversy, see how the wind blows before deciding what to do, then either fire or reinstate the person after the media pressure has passed," Beverly Hills-based entertainment attorney Julian Chan told Fox News. "We have seen in the past where someone has been rehabilitated or forgiven, and other times where they have been moved out."
It would be hard to figure A&E stopping the show completely, given it brings in roughly 14 million viewers each week, counting reruns, making it one of the highest-rated shows on cable television.
"There is almost no way in the bayou that A&E would dump 'Duck Dynasty.' The show is a massive hit for them with 11.8 million viewers tuning in for [the] 'Duck Dynasty' Season 4 premiere earlier this year, and 8.9 million watching the Robertson clan's December 11 Christmas Special," Deadline Hollywood wrote.
In a statement released Dec 18. A&E stated that it was disappointed to read Robertson's remarks, adding that the "Duck Dynasty" patriarch's beliefs were personal and not a reflection of the network's views.
"His personal views in no way reflect those of A&E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely," reads the statement.
Robertson was barred from filming the reality show, which has been a huge hit for A&E due to the Robertson family's core Christian fans, many of whom have threatened to boycott the cable network for suspending its leading star.