"Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson may not have the backing of his network, but he at least has the support of his governor.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, has come to the defense of Robertson, who A&E has put on hiatus from his show after he made some controversial anti-gay statements to GQ.
"The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with. I don't agree with quite a bit of stuff I read in magazine interviews or see on TV. In fact, come to think of it, I find a good bit of it offensive," Jindal said in a statement. "But I also acknowledge that this is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views. In fact, I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment. It is a messed up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended."
As NPR's Linda Holmes pointed out in 2010 – when talk radio host Laura Schlessinger also pulled the First Amendment card after her remarks about who can use the "N-word" got her in trouble – Robertson's suspension is not about political freedom of speech, but about their economic consequences.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights groups GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign were quick to condemn Robertson and A&E for the remarks, in which Robertson equated homosexuality to bestiality, prostitution and terrorism. (The NAACP also called for action, criticizing the statements Robertson made about the status of African-Americans before the civil rights movement.)
No matter what the effect Robertson's comments have on the show's viewers – who, considering that the Robertson family's devout Christian beliefs and social conservative values were always an undercurrent of the show, likely were not surprised by his statements (and some may even agree with them) – there also are the business concerns of the show's advertisers to weigh, not to mention those of the many merchandising partners in the $400 million "Duck Dynasty" empire.
Paula Deen was dropped by a great many of her business partners -- including Food Network, Caesars Entertainment, Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Target -- after racist remarks she had made in the past surfaced in June, even as her most devoted fans continued to line up at her restaurants in support.
The end of these business relationships came even as Deen made tearful and pained (and off-putting to some) attempts to apologize. But in a statement Robertson released before being put on hiatus, he more or less stood by his opinions.
However, Chick-fil-A presents a counter-case. When its CEO, Dan Cathy, told a radio program he was against same-sex marriage (albeit in language more restrained than Robertson's), the backlash was met with its own counter-backlash: a Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day sponsored by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, which the company says brought in record-setting sales. (Fans supporting Robertson already have started a similar counter-campaign to A&E's decision, with a "Stand With Phil Robertson" Facebook page, a Twitter hashtag and a petition.)
But Chick-fil-A is just one company, while the "Duck Dynasty" name is tied to a number of corporations – including Target, Kohl's, Universal Music and Hallmark. Each of them will have to decide whether a connection to Robertson is worth it for their bottom line. A&E was only the first.