"Duck Dynasty" executive producer Deirdre Gurney opened up about star Phil Robertson's controversial comments from 2013 in a new roundtable discussion with The Hollywood Reporter and stated that she wanted to speak out about the situation but knew she had to trust Robertson to handle the situation.
"I don't think anyone expected it to be that kind of reaction and get that much attention, so no one was prepared with what this really meant, what to say," Gurney said of Robertson's controversial comments about homosexuality made during a GQ interview in 2013.
Robertson's comments immediately came under fire and people began to call for the show to be canceled or Robertson removed from the series. The network, A&E, suspended Robertson from the show in an attempt to quell the rising tide of complaints.
"I wanted to be able to speak and explain, but we couldn't," Gurney said. "We know our talent. I know Phil Robertson. I know his beliefs. I know how he treats a crew that has several gay people on it and people of different races and people from all different places. He has beliefs and stands by them. But that isn't how he treats people — it is what he thinks. I think there's a separation between what he thinks and how he thinks people should be treated. I don't think he was saying anything about how people should be treated."
Indeed, the Robertson family gathered together and stood firmly behind the patriarch, even stating that they would leave the series if Phil was permanently suspended or let go. He was brought back and the show began its new season with the cast secured. Robertson's comments remained a hot topic, though, and Phil has continued to speak his mind on controversial topics despite any public criticism. He has stated that he's led by God and, as a preacher, is called to speak truth to people.
"The Real World" executive producer Jonathan Murray said that A&E should have stood firmly behind Robertson instead of making the statement that his views were "not views we hold."
"The worst thing you can do as a network is to say something and then take it back," Murray explained. "Ultimately, the viewers decide whether they're comfortable watching that person or not. It's tricky when someone is couching their beliefs in their religious beliefs. Don't people have a right to believe something in their religion? It's a fine line."
"Duck Dynasty" airs on A&E.