The A&E channel said it's reversing its decision to drop "Duck Dynasty" patriarch Phil Robertson from the show for his remarks about gays.
In a statement Friday, A&E said it decided to bring Robertson back after discussions with the Robertson family and "numerous advocacy groups."
The channel had put Robertson on what it called "hiatus" following his comments in a magazine article about how the Bible informs his view of gays.
His comments were slammed by groups including GLAAD, the gay media watch organization. But A&E's decision drew a backlash from those who said they supported Robertson's comments and others who defended him on the basis of freedom of speech.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
The A&E channel says "Duck Dynasty" patriarch Phil Robertson is off the show indefinitely after condemning gays as sinners in a magazine interview.
Robertson is also accused of making insensitive comments about blacks.
In a statement Wednesday, A&E said it was extremely disappointed to read Robertson's comments in GQ magazine.
His beliefs are personal and don't reflect the views of A&E or the show itself, the channel said.
Robertson has been placed on an indefinite hiatus from filming the hit reality show, which follows a colorful Louisiana family that manufactures duck calls. "Duck Dynasty" has set cable ratings records for a non-fiction series.
In the interview in the January issue of GQ, Robertson put gays into the company of others who are sinners, including adulterers and swindlers.
CNN reports that in addition to his comments about homosexuality, Robertson also spoke about race and growing up in Louisiana before the civil rights era.
"I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once," he told GQ. "Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I'm with the blacks, because we're white trash. We're going across the field. ... They're singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, 'I tell you what: These doggone white people' -- not a word!
"Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues," GQ quoted Robertson as saying.
The Robertson family issued a statement Thursday night on the website duckcommander.com.
"We want to thank all of you for your prayers and support," the statement reads. "The family has 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.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. We are in discussions with A&E to see what that means for the future of Duck Dynasty. Again, thank you for your continued support of our family."
We are learning now that the NAACP and the Human Rights Campaign shared their concerns about Robertson's comments in the magazine with the A&E president through a letter.
CNN reported these quote from the letter: "Mr. Robertson claims that, from what he saw, African Americans were happier under Jim Crow. What he didn't see were lynching and beatings of black men and women for attempting to vote or simply walking down the street."
"And his offensive claims about gay people fly in the face of science. In fact, it's important to note that every single leading medical organization in the country has said that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being LGBT -- it's not a choice, and to suggest otherwise is dangerous."
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people are flocking to social media like Facebook to share their opinion. Various Facebook pages have popped up, including one that had hundreds of thousands of followers in just one day and calls for a boycott. A petition has also been created to return Phil Robertson to the show.
The website for GLAAD, which is a national advocacy group for the lesbian, gay and transexual community, calls Robertson's comments "some of the vilest and most extreme statements uttered against LGBT people in a mainstream publication."
"What’s clear is that such hateful anti-gay comments are unacceptable to fans, viewers, and networks alike,” said GLAAD spokesperson Wilson Cruz. “By taking quick action and removing Robertson from future filming, A&E has sent a strong message that discrimination is neither a Christian nor an American value."
(Copyright WITN & The Associated Press.)