A petition urging A&E to reinstate embattled Duck Dynasty star Phi Robertson has attracted more than 100,000 signatures.
The Change.org petition calls for a boycott of A&E if it does not bring back Robertson and apologize for placing him on indefinite hiatus. Robertson came under fire this week for anti-gay comments he made in a recent interview with GQ.
“Duck Dynasty has a huge following and WE THE PEOPLE stand behind Phil Robertson and his family,” reads the petition, which has attracted nearly 108,000 signatures. “We stand for faith and freedom. We stand for family and values. Those who disagree have the God given right to, that doesn’t mean Phil needs to be punished for exercising his rights.”
As the controversy continued, Cracker Barrel announced Friday on its Facebook page that it was removing certain Duck Dynasty products from its shelves.
“We removed selected products which we were concerned might offend some of our guests while we evaluate the situation,” the Cracker Barrel post read. “We continually evaluate the products we offer and will continue to do so.”
Robertson has issued a statement apologizing for the GQ interview, in which he equated homosexuality with bestiality and suggested that African-Americans were not unhappy during the Jim Crow era.
According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, A&E knew of Robertson’s controversial views before the show’s 2012 premiere, and warned him not to expound on issues such as gay rights. Robertson and other family members’ contracts reportedly included morals clauses, in which they pledged not to do anything to embarrass or harm the A&E brand.
The Robertson family released a statement Thursday, saying it could not imagine continuing the show without Phil Robertson.
In addition to the Change.org petition, a petition sponsored by Faith Driven Consumer has attracted more than 170,000 signatures. Robertson has also been defended by commentators on Fox News as well as notable conservative figures such as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Industry insiders expect the Duck Dynasty controversy to blow over, and an A&E source says the network has lost just one advertiser because of it. The show premiered in 2012 to modest numbers, but rose to cable’s No. 2 series within a year.