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Joe Henderson Columns

Henderson: 'Duck Dynasty' flap all about business

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Published:   |   Updated: December 21, 2013 at 09:02 AM

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You can argue the A&E Network messed up this week when it suspended Phil Robertson, star of the wildly popular “Duck Dynasty” show. I might even be on your side.

Robertson made anti-gay remarks to GQ magazine, and I don't agree even a little bit with what he said. However, about half the country would likely tell you he didn't say a darn thing wrong. A Gallup poll this year shows the nation favoring gay marriage by 52 to 48 percent (I'm in the 52 percent, just so we're clear), but that's not exactly an overwhelming majority.

And forget trying to persuade evangelical Christians like Robertson to accept gays. It's never going to happen. I seriously doubt the executives at A&E were in the dark about how Robertson felt about this, either, and shouldn't have been surprised when his quotes made news.

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If I was in charge of that network, I would have put out a statement that although we don't agree with his views, this is an issue that needs a rational, national discussion. And please keep watching.

That's not how A&E handled it though, and you know what? The network had every right to pull him off the show. I'm not buying the argument put forth by many of his defenders that the suspension violates Robertson's First Amendment rights.

The founding fathers were pretty clear on that subject.

They wrote that Congress shall make no laws respecting the establishment of religion, or anything that impedes free speech or freedom of the press. No one from Washington tried to censor Robertson.

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But A&E, well, that's different.

This is simply a company protecting the brand and hoping to avoid the kind of consumer backlash that hit Chick-fil-A last year when its CEO shared his opposition to same-sex marriage.

For what it's worth, I didn't stop going to Chick-fil-A. It wasn't a tough call. I like chicken sandwiches, and I think it's dumb to punish employees who just work there for something someone else said.

Intolerance is not unique to any particular viewpoint, by the way.

Liberals preach acceptance and understanding until someone says something they don't like.

Conservatives want freedom from government regulation and interference until someone has a lifestyle different from them.

I can't say I'll stop watching “Duck Dynasty” because first I would have to start. Since I would rather stick pins in my eyeballs than watch so-called reality television, I'll stick with ESPN.

Although I couldn't care less what Robertson thinks about this or any other subject, apparently a lot of people do.

If consumers decide to boycott companies that advertise on the show, then A&E was well within its rights to take pre-emptive action.

Conservatives should understand that, given how fervently they defend the free-market system.

And that means Phil Robertson is out of luck, because this isn't about freedom of speech. It's strictly business.

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