Reactions are pouring in to the A&E Networks' reversal of "Duck Dynasty" hero Phil Robertson's "indefinite" suspension for his comments against homosexuality. While fans remain uncertain of A&E's "true intent," opponents say they'll be watching carefully the show's next steps.
The decision by A&E to reinstate Robertson "is in direct response to the powerful and engaged voices of millions of Faith Driven Consumers, as highlighted by more than 260,000 signers of the IStandWithPhil.com petition," the advocacy group noted in a statement.
But Faith Driven Consumer added that the question whether their community has truly been heard still remains unanswered.
"Despite our celebration, we remain uncertain of A&E's true intent," the group said. In the A&E's statement of their core values, which are "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," it said, asking, "Do they also now embrace the biblically based values and world view held by the Robertson family and millions of Faith Driven Consumers?"
Announcing its decision to reinstate Robertson, A&E stated Friday, "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."
But 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," the advocacy group said, adding, "Faith Driven Consumers will remain vigilant as we measure whether A&E's actions reflect true tolerance, diversity, and mutual respect – including their equal embrace of our biblically based values and deeply held beliefs."
A&E said Friday the network would "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."
The network's reversal came nine days after A&E announced Dec. 18 that it had "indefinitely" suspended Robertson due to his views against homosexuality in the January issue of GQ magazine.
The fifth season of "Duck Dynasty" is set to premiere on Jan. 15. The show has sold close to $400 million in related merchandise, and has made the A&E network about $80 million in advertising sales revenue through September of this year.
Family Research Council (FRC) President Tony Perkins said the return of Robertson in the face of backlash "is quite telling to the American people who are growing tired of GLAAD and cultural elites who want to silence people and remove God and His word from every aspect of public life."
GLAAD, formerly the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, campaigned against Robertson's comments, which contributed to A&E's decision to suspend the conservative Christian.
"The attacks on Phil Robertson revealed to the American people that the push to redefine marriage is less about the marriage altar than it is fundamentally altering America's moral, political and cultural landscape," Perkins said in a statement.
GLAAD seeks to silence "anyone who dare challenge the idea that homosexuality is normal," Perkins added. "However, the Robertson family's refusal to cower to GLAAD's bullying and the ensuing backlash to the suspension, unlike anything since Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, finally forced A&E Network to withdraw the suspension."
Reacting to Robertson's return, GLAAD said it would be watching carefully the show's next steps. "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," the group said in a statement. "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."
The Robertson family released a statement to Foxnews.com, saying they were "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 Robertsons said. "The outpouring of support and prayer has encouraged and emboldened us greatly."
Robertson's son, Alan, also part of the "Duck Dynasty" show and a pastor, said he is thankful for the support. "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," he said in a statement to E! News. "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."
La. Gov. Bobby Jindal tweeted his reaction. "I'm glad to hear that A&E came to its senses & 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 ... The left may control Hollywood, but they don't control the hearts and minds of a majority of Americans."
In the GQ interview, Robertson said that homosexuality was a sin along with various other sexual sins. He commented that "bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. 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."
Robertson also said, in an explicit language, "It seems to me, a vagina – as a man – would be more desirable than a man's anus. That's just me. I'm just thinking, 'There's more there! She's got more to offer.' I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I'm saying? But hey, sin: It's not logical, my man. It's just not logical," he added.
In its statement Friday, A&E said Robertson's comments reflect "his personal views based on his own beliefs, and his own personal journey." Robertson and his family "have publicly stated they regret the 'coarse language' he used and the misinterpretation of his core beliefs based only on the article," the network added. "He also made it clear he would 'never incite or encourage hate.'"