He’s back. Suspended from A&E’s popular “Duck Dynasty” reality show following his controversial comments about sexuality and race, Phil Robertson will return to the show.
In a statement to media outlets, the cable network said Robertson will rejoin the series, and because he didn’t miss any filming, his leave will have no effect on the upcoming season.
“While Phil’s comments made in the interview reflect his personal views based on his own beliefs, and his own personal journey, he and his family have publicly stated they regret the ‘coarse language’ he used and the misinterpretation of his core beliefs,” the statement said. ”As you might have seen in many episodes, they come together to reflect and pray for unity, tolerance and forgiveness. These are three values that we at A&E Networks also feel strongly about.”
The network suggested it will move forward on another initiative touching on the issues raised during the controversy.
“We will also use this moment to launch a national public service campaign 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,” A&E said. “These PSAs will air across our entire portfolio.”
Robertson, who leads a reality show about members of a family that run a hunting supply company in Louisiana, was suspended by A&E after an interview with GQ magazine was published. Robertson, 67, was asked: “What, in your mind, is sinful?”
“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there,” Robertson said. “Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.”
The GQ interviewer says Robertson is free to say whatever he wants out in the wild, “maybe a little too free.”
“It seems like, 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,” Robertson said in the interview. “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.”
His comments on race also sparked a backlash. “I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once,” he said. “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.”
After his suspension, the family said it couldn’t go on without its patriarch, saying it would work with the network to find a solution.
The suspension imposed nine days ago encapsulated a debate between sexual tolerance and religious tolerance. Tobin Grant argued that evangelicals thrive on controversy like “Duck Dynasty,” because it illustrates how evangelicalism is embattled and thriving.
“Duck Dynasty” is not only a television show. Spinoffs include books and merchandise. Cracker Barrel apologized to its customers after removing some merchandise in the latest controversy.
The Robertsons are interested in being “gospel spokespeople,” Phil Robertson’s son Alan Robertson said earlier this summer.
“We’re kind of the John the Baptists of the 21st century,” he said. “It’s how you imagine, with the wild hair and the locusts.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sarah Pulliam Bailey joined RNS as a national correspondent in 2013. She has previously served as managing editor of Odyssey Networks and online editor for Christianity Today.)