DENVER - Two high-profile Republicans have taken to Facebook to criticize A&E's treatment of the Duck Dynasty patriarch kicked off the hit A&E show over anti-gay comments.
Former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin and Texas Senator Ted Cruz both posted comments to their Facebook pages following the network's announcement that Phil Robertson will be indefinitely removed from the series. Robertson, 67, made comments disparaging gays as sinners akin to adulterers and swindlers in an interview for the January edition of GQ magazine. He also said that, growing up in Louisiana before the Civil Rights movement, he never saw mistreatment of blacks.
Palin's post accompanied a photo of herself with some of the Duck Dynasty stars, including Robertson.
"Free speech is an endangered species. Those 'intolerants' hatin’ and taking on the Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing his personal opinion are taking on all of us," Palin wrote.
To date, 290,210 Facebook users had liked her comment.
"If you believe in free speech or religious liberty, you should be deeply dismayed over the treatment of Phil Robertson," Sen. Cruz posted. "Phil expressed his personal views and his own religious faith; for that, he was suspended from his job. In a free society, anyone is free to disagree with him--but the mainstream media should not behave as the thought police censoring the views with which they disagree."
In his GQ interview, Robertson was asked his definition of sinful behavior.
"Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there," such as bestiality, he said.
GQ said he then paraphrases a biblical reference: "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."
In a statement, A&E said it was extremely disappointed to see Robertson's anti-gay remarks, which it said were based on his personal beliefs and do not reflect those of A&E Networks or the show. A&E called itself a supporter of the lesbian and gay community.
The channel's move was lauded by the gay and lesbian media advocacy group GLAAD, which had quickly condemned Robertson's comments.
"What's clear is that such hateful anti-gay comments are unacceptable to fans, viewers, and networks alike," said GLAAD spokesman Wilson Cruz. Robertson's removal "has sent a strong message that discrimination is neither a Christian nor an American value."
Robertson and his extended family became wealthy manufacturing duck calls and were turned into TV and pop culture stars by "Duck Dynasty," which has set cable ratings records for a non-fiction series. Several family members appeared in this year's Macy's Thanksgiving parade.
Robertson and his family had no comment on his hiatus, A&E said on their behalf. He may be in some previously taped scenes when the show returns Jan. 15 for its fifth season, a network spokesman said.