(CNN) — The family behind A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” rallied around its patriarch Thursday, one day after the network suspended Phil Robertson over controversial remarks he made about gays and blacks in a magazine interview.
“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,” the Robertsons said in a statement.
The family called into question the future of the show.
“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,” it said.
In the January issue of GQ, Robertson said homosexuality is a sin and puts it in the same category as bestiality and promiscuity.
“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,” he’s quoted as saying.
When asked what he thought was sinful, Robertson replied: “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.”
But homosexuals aren’t alone, Robertson said. “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.”
A&E said it was troubled by Robertson’s statements.
“We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty,” the network said in a statement Wednesday. “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 network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.”
In addition to his comments about homosexuality, Robertson also spoke about race and growing up in Louisiana before the civil rights era.
“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once,” he told GQ. “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,” GQ quoted Robertson as saying.
Outrage and support
The NAACP and the Human Rights Campaign wrote a joint letter to the president of A&E expressing “outrage and deep concern about the recent racist, homophobic, and ill-informed remarks made by Phil Robertson.”
“Mr. Robertson claims that, from what he saw, African Americans were happier under Jim Crow. What he didn’t see were lynching and beatings of black men and women for attempting to vote or simply walking down the street,” the letter states.
“And his offensive claims about gay people fly in the face of science. In fact, it’s important to note that every single leading medical organization in the country has said that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being LGBT — it’s not a choice, and to suggest otherwise is dangerous.”
But by early Thursday night, more than 70,000 people had signed a change.org petition calling for A&E to bring Robertson back.
“Homosexuals have their convictions and Christians respect them,” the organizer of the petition wrote. “There is a difference between respecting someone rights to exercise free will and imposing on others what we believe. Phil has done nothing more than state what he believes in. Just because homosexuals do not agree, does not mean Mr. Robertson needs to be suspended.”
Similarly, the Facebook page “Bring Back Phil Robertson” had more than 190,000 “likes” by Thursday night.
“I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me,” he said. “We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity.”
“Duck Dynasty” follows a Louisiana bayou family that has “made a fortune on duck calls,” as A&E puts it.
Robertson founded the Duck Commander company, “which sold a line of custom-made duck-hunting calls that quickly became popular among avid hunters for their uncanny accuracy in replicating the sound of a real duck,” the GQ article states. Videos of his family’s duck hunts led to a show on the Outdoor Channel and eventually A&E, the article says.
Season 5 of is set to premiere on January 15. According to A&E, its fourth season premiere in August drew nearly 12 million viewers to become the No. 1 nonfiction series telecast in cable history.
CNN’s Tom Foreman contributed to this report.
™ & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.