Sunday, December 29, 2013

Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson Condemned After GQ Interview

Duck Dynasty, A&E's hit reality show about a family of Louisiana outdoorsmen who run the Duck Commander business, is at the center of a controversy. In an interview with Drew Magary published in GQ Magazine, Duck Commander founder Phil Robertson made several homophobic comments, as well as other jarring comments about African-Americans, world religions, and Christianity.

On the topic of Christianity and other world religions, Robertson claimed that societies that do not revere Jesus descend into bloodshed and horror.
“All you have to do is look at any society where there is no Jesus. I’ll give you four: Nazis, no Jesus. Look at their record. Uh, Shintos? They started this thing in Pearl Harbor. Any Jesus among them? None. Communists? None. Islamists? Zero. That’s eighty years of ideologies that have popped up where no Jesus was allowed among those four groups. Just look at the records as far as murder goes among those four groups.”
With regard to African-Americans, Robertson claimed that black people were content during the "pre-entitlement, pre-welfare" era before civil rights.
“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. 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.”
Finally, Robertson's comments about sexuality hit a nerve with many readers. He brazenly claimed that women's intimate parts were more desirable than men's, branding attraction between men "not logical" and "sin".
“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. 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.”
Robertson spoke of homosexuality in the same breath as bestiality, stressing its allegedly sinful nature.
“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. 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.” 
Unfortunately, this is not the first time Phil Robertson has made offensive comments about LGBTQ persons, as Raw Story and Good As You observe. The GQ interview triggered a firestorm in which public figures blasted and defended Robertson's offensive comments.

LGBTQ rights groups were rightly disgusted. Wilson Cruz, spokesperson for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), condemned Robertson's comments as "vile" and unchristian.
"Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil's lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe ... He clearly knows nothing about gay people or the majority of Louisianans – and Americans - who support legal recognition for loving and committed gay and lesbian couples. Phil's decision to push vile and extreme stereotypes is a stain on A&E and his sponsors who now need to reexamine their ties to someone with such public disdain for LGBT people and families."
Human Rights Campaign (HRC) voiced its outrage as well. HRC president Chad Griffin called out Robertson, reminding him of his responsibility as a role model.
"Phil Robertson’s remarks are not consistent with the values of our faith communities or the scientific findings of leading medical organizations. We know that being gay is not a choice someone makes, and that to suggest otherwise can be incredibly harmful. We also know that Americans of faith follow the Golden Rule – treating others with the respect and dignity you’d wish to be treated with. As a role model on a show that attracts millions of viewers, Phil Robertson has a responsibility to set a positive example for young Americans – not shame and ridicule them because of who they are."
Rev. Jesse Jackson called Robertson's comments "hurtful and painful", adding that Robertson seemed "unrepentant" amidst the public outcry, according to Pink News. “When people make mistakes, and people do make mistakes, you should be repentant and contrite and then seek forgiveness," Jackson said on the Steve Malzberg Show.

While most of the controversy over Robertson's statements has focused on his homophobia, several observers have condemned his race-related comments as well. In a December 20th commentary for the Southern Poverty Law Center, attorney Morris Dees laments that the black people of Robertson's youth endured poverty, injustice, and the threat of racist violence. He urged readers to condemn historical revisionism that falsely claims black Americans lived well during the Jim Crow era.
"I don’t know anything about Robertson’s experiences. But I grew up on a small cotton farm in Alabama and also worked in the fields alongside African Americans. It shouldn’t even be necessary to say that they were treated as second-class citizens, most of them mired in abject poverty and with very little opportunity for anything more. There was no such thing as equality in any sense of the word.

And of course black folks didn’t go around saying anything about “these doggone white people.” The threat of racist violence was ever present, and there was virtually no chance any white person who harmed a black person would face anything close to justice. I wonder what Robertson would say about the four little black girls who were killed in the Klan bombing of Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church – or the many, many others who were lynched over the decades? What would he say about Emmett Till, the 14-year-old who was murdered for supposedly flirting with a white woman in Mississippi? Were they happy about their situation, too?"

In a commentary at the Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates took Robertson to task for his comments about black people. She reminded readers that the black people Robertson knew were besieged by racism and violence. "This is not just ignorance; it is a willful retreat into myth," Coates maintained.
"The black people who Phil Robertson knew were warred upon. If they valued their lives, and the lives of their families, the last thing they would have done was voiced a complaint about "white people" to a man like Robertson. Ignorance is no great sin and one can forgive the good-natured white person for not knowing how all that cannibal sausage was truly made. But having been presented with a set of facts, Robertson's response is to cite "welfare" and "entitlement" as the true culprits.

The belief that black people were at their best when they were being hunted down like dogs for the sin of insisting on citizenship is a persistent strain of thought in this country. This belief reflects the inability to cope with an America that is, at least rhetorically, committed to equality."
Jonathan Merritt, also writing at the Atlantic, discussed the limitations of Robertson's recollection of the past, arguing that other people have told very different stories about the era.
"His recollection is oddly reminiscent of the Song of the South vision of the past, long since abandoned by even fringe historians ... Contrary to Robertson’s assumption, his single experience in Louisiana—however true it may be—doesn't tell us anything about the realities of the Jim Crow South. For that, we (and he) need to hear many stories. And not just stories of statutes and signs that specified “whites only” or overlooked public beatings or slogans that reiterated black inferiority or the crushing poverty inflicted upon an entire race that was almost as bad as death at the hand of a lynch mob. We also need to hear the stories that comprise what Howard Thurman called the “anatomy of segregation” in his famous 1965 book The Luminous Darkness."
Phil Robertson's retrograde comments (and the right-wing's defense of them) remind us that the struggle for racial, religious, and LGBTQ equality is far from over. While enlightened voices condemn Robertson's remarks, other voices defend his vitriolic remarks as a free speech issue, as I will discuss in an upcoming post. Even in 21st century America, a stubborn segment of the population resists the lessons of history and the voices of marginalized groups calling for rights. This, as always, is what enlightened people must struggle to change.


  1. He is an idiot, and I am sure for his comments he will and is getting the full force of what happens to stone age men. He has his free speech right, but he does not have a right to complain when he sits on the street with no job due to his actions.

    1. Christian -- Aye. He may have the right to express his opinions, but other people also have the right to criticize him for those opinions.


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