Here’s a press release from the governor:
BATON ROUGE – Governor Bobby Jindal issued a statement this morning following the news of Phil Robertson being suspended by A&E from the show Duck Dynasty.
Governor Jindal said, “Phil Robertson and his family are great citizens of the State of Louisiana. The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with. I don’t agree with quite a bit of stuff I read in magazine interviews or see on TV. In fact, come to think of it, I find a good bit of it offensive. But I also acknowledge that this is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views. In fact, I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment. It is a messed up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended “
Governor Jindal framed this as a First Amendment issue in the tweet accompanying this release. But it’s a contract issue, not a Constitutional issue.
The most relevant example that illustrates Robertson’s suspension as a contract issue is Don Imus, who was fired by MSNBC and CBS Radio under similar circumstances. Imus, remember, was fired for a comment deemed racially insensitive, but the comment that got Imus fired wasn’t any more insensitive than his many other insensitive remarks from over the years. Imus sued CBS and eventually settled for a $20,000,000 payout arguing that he was wrongfully terminated because his contract specified that he make controversial remarks.
Which brings us to Phil Robertson. Robertson’s Christian beliefs were well known to A&E when the network started the show. Did A&E not think those beliefs might, at some time, conflict with a politically correct view of the world? There was even a controversy from earlier this year where Robertson accused A&E of editing out of the show references to Jesus as well as adding “bleeps” to give the impression that he and his family were cursing, a charge Robertson denied.
I don’t think we know everything yet that went down between Robertson and A&E, nor do we know of all the bad blood between the network and Robertson. But of interest to me is his contract and what exactly it prohibits him from saying in public because what he said in the GQ interview wasn’t that out of line from things he’s said in the past. We also don’t know how the other cast members of Duck Dynasty will react. Are they fine with filming the show — and cashing A&E’s checks – without Robertson? That’s to be determined.
It’s also important to note that Duck Dynasty is more than just a show to A&E. A quick search on ToysRUs.com, for example, shows that Duck Dynasty is now a brand, not just a television show. And however much I think their suspension of Robertson was short-sighted and stupid, A&E believes that this move offers the best protection for their corporate interests.