Is this the end of Duck Dynasty?
While the fifth season, much or all of which has presumably been shot, is set to premiere Jan. 15 on A&E, the entire Robertson family has come together in support of patriarch Phil Robertson, who was suspended by the network in light of anti-gay comments he made in a recent interview with GQ.
"We want to thank all of you for your prayers and support. The family has spent much time in prayer since learning of A&E's decision," read a statement posted on the Duck Commander website.
"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," the family continued. "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."
While Robertson's interview, in which he said men being with other men wasn't "logical" and grouped homosexuality into a long list of immoral behaviors, has attracted tons of backlash—not least of which from their own network—plenty of support has been forthcoming as well.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin have both spoken out against Robertson being punished by A&E for exercising his right to free speech, and the historically anti-gay National Organization for Marriage is petitioning for his immediate reinstatement—provided the network apologize first.
Ironically,The Hollywood Reporter's Jan. 3 issue, which touts The Rule Breakers" of 2013, features Duck Dynasty's Willie Robertson on the cover (as a representative of his family's we-do-it-our-way credo).
Just hours after Phil's GQ comments first started resonating, A&E parent A+E Networks put him on "indefinite" hiatus, stating that his comments "are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty."
"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 cable group added.
Phil has not spoken out individually, nor has the majority of the family, but his 16-year-old granddaughter Sadie Robertson was first to tweet yesterday, "Prayer is the best conversation of the day. It's better to go to God before taking it to someone else."
Directing fans to her family's statement this evening, the aspiring model tweeted, with a link to their website, "This is what the family has decided. We know this is all in Gods hands. You can read our reaction."