A&E says its hit reality show "Duck Dynasty" will resume filming in spring 2014 "with the entire Robertson family," more than a week after it suspended patriarch Phil Robertson following the publication of a magazine article that contained his anti-gay comments and an online backlash that erupted over his suspension.
The cable channel announced the news in a statement, obtained by OTRC.com, on Friday, Dec. 27. It said that the decision was made following discussions with the family members and consultations with "numerous advocacy groups." A&E also said it would launch a national public service campaign "promoting unity, tolerance and acceptance among all people."
Phil, a 67-year-old bearded, camo-wearing Louisiana duck hunter who built a business empire due to the success of a trademarked duck-calling device, had said in a GQ magazine interview that he considered "homosexual behavior" to be "sinful" and used gay people as an example of who he thinks should be taught about Jesus.
Following a public condemnation by gay rights group GLAAD, A&E then put him on an "indefinite hiatus from filming" "Duck Dynasty," whose fifth season is set to air in January.
The Robertsons said last week they were in talks with A&E, saying they could not "imagine the show going forward without our patriarch at the helm."
The news also comes just as an online petition, "IStandWithPhil," exceeded its goal and obtained more than 250,000 signatures.
The full A&E statement reads as follows.
"As a global media content company, A&E Networks' core values are centered around creativity, inclusion and mutual respect. We believe it is a privilege for our brands to be invited into people's home and we operate with a strong sense of integrity and deep commitment to these principles."
"That is why we reacted so quickly and strongly to a recent interview with Phil Robertson. While Phil's comments made in the interview reflect his personal views based on his own beliefs, and his own personal journey, he and his family have publicly stated they regret the 'coarse language' he used and the mis-interpretation of his core beliefs based only on the article. He also made it clear he would 'never incite or encourage hate.' We at A&E Networks expressed our disappointment with his statements in the article, and reiterate that they are not views we hold."
"But 'Duck Dynasty' is not a show about one man's views. It resonates with a large audience because it is a show about family ... a family that America has come to love. As you might have seen in many episodes, they come together to reflect and pray for unity, tolerance and forgiveness. These are three values that we at A&E Networks also feel strongly about."
"So after discussions with the Robertson family, as well as consulting with numerous advocacy groups, A&E has decided to resume filming Duck Dynasty later this spring with the entire Robertson family."
"We will also use this moment to launch a national public service campaign (PSA) promoting unity, tolerance and acceptance among all people, a message that supports our core values as a company, and the values found in Duck Dynasty. These PSAs will air across our entire portfolio."