The 21st-century 20-something

Thursday, December 19, 2013

People get fired. Sorry, Phil Robertson.

Nothing can spruce up a boring Thursday like some Duck Dynasty drama, eh?

Well for those of you who haven't heard, apparently A&E indefinitely suspended Phil Robertson of the show Duck Dynasty for the anti-gay remarks he made in a recent interview with GQ.
Photo courtesy of

I personally have only caught a few glimpses of the show, so I'm not familiar with Phil Robertson's character and personality, but I would really like to address people making this suspension out to be an attack on Christianity and civil rights, when it most definitely is not.

According to the CNN report:
"In an interview in the January issue of GQ, Robertson says 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."

First of all, I am a journalist. I believe in freedom of speech and understand fully why it is necessary and should be upheld. The fact is, he is not being denied his rights - he said what he said. No one is throwing him in jail or threatening to close down the Duck Commander business, leaving duck hunters everywhere high and dry.

The bottom line is that A&E has had to go into damage control mode to make everyone aware that they do not share Phil Robertson's views and as a network, it supports the LGBT community.

In the wonderful state of New York, where I reside, they work under an 'employment at will' standard, where you can be fired for any reason, and you don't even have the right to know what the reason is if the employer does not wish to share.

Basically, I can be fired for my haircut, what I bring for lunch, the kind of car I drive, being a Syracuse basketball fan - any assortment of asinine reasons. And there's nothing I can do about it. It is entirely at the discretion of my employer.

I could even get fired for this blog post. Fair? Not quite.

This works along the same lines. An employer is not going to keep an employee around that draws negativity and does not have mental capacity to gauge the difference between having a relationship with someone of the same gender and having sex with animals.

The statements he made were ignorant, there's not doubt about it, but he does have every right to say them. A&E, however, has every right to take whatever action they feel necessary to keep their network in a positive public standing.

Phil Robertson is a public figure, and when you're in the public eye, ignorance and intolerance will never be taken lightly. If Barack Obama said this, how fast would the conservatives being filing for his impeachment saying the remarks were inappropriate? But when they can make it a religious crusade, they jump at the opportunity.

There are several jobs where these comments would warrant an employee's termination, especially someone who is in the spotlight that has a fan base of people who really pay attention to what they say. As a public figure, he should really be more mindful of what he is putting out there. All celebrities get the same pep talk from their PR team - just smile and don't say anything stupid. Seems pretty simple, right? Keep the hateful and judgmental speech in your own living room.

Obviously, I personally don't agree with what was said, but that's not why I wrote this post. I want people to really educate themselves on freedom of speech and religion, and once they do, they'll realize neither of those rights were violated and have nothing to do with the situation.

At the end of the day, some people get fired. Sorry, Phil Robertson.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bravo, well said!

December 19, 2013 at 10:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kali I agree. I have an issue with "ignorance and intolerance" when Mr Robertson was paraphrasing well known biblical passges. The Judeo-Christian bible that our Founding Fathers saw fit to found a nation upon. He is not a hater - he does not encourage violence nor uprising, he is accepting. He exercised his right to free speech, A&E exercised their right to fire him. A bunch of us are now exercising our right to ignore A&E and refuse to make use of their sponsors. It's all good. Uncle Chuck.

December 19, 2013 at 11:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While you are correct in that the current controversy surrounding Duck Dynasty is likely not a Constitutional legal rights issue. There are some other things you should consider I think.

New York State is a 'right to work' state as you cite, however the very link you cite mentions situations where it is illegal for a person to be fired. Clauses #5 and #6 on that link may very well apply to Phil's situation, and clause #3 may also depending on how Phil's contract with A&E reads. In fact A&E may not even have the right to fire him.

A&E isn't listed as the production company of Duck Dynasty, a company called Gurney Productions is, and generally if anyone can fire a star of a show it's the production company making said show, not the distributor of said show. The distributor can just lodge complaints or of course choose to not distribute the show once a contract is up. Breaking a contract is generally a very dumb thing to do for financial as well as other reasons. It is possible that A&E owns a controlling stake in that company, but I don't know.

Given the way many shows are produced these days, I'd say chances are A&E can't fire him even if they wanted to and that what they stated was just PR BS to cover their rumps. Given their hasty response to the controversy I think it's safe to say that is the situation, as there are legal ramifications if they breach contract and any executive at a company worth any salt is going to spend time talking to their legal department before they fire anyone under a muilti-million dollar contract (which Phil, his family, and their show surely is). The smart thing I think for A&E to do was remain silent, and not comment at all, not say they are suspending the patriach of their biggest show (at least 'non-fiction' show). Damage controll really wasn't necessary.

Anyways, Phil's situation is a little more complicated than 'you're fired' more than likely due to the contract he, his family, and company signed Gurney Productions and with A&E. There are many things the public doesn't know about this contract, and probably won't know unless a lawsuit arises out of all of this.

All in all I'd wager a lot that Phil and Duck Dynasty will continue to work on A&E or elsewhere, and it's probably going to be a situation of either reconciliation with A&E or A&E shooting themselves in the foot over all of this. As frankly, I wouldn't want to be in A&E's shoes if a lawsuit against them arises out of all of this, as they will likely be on the losing side. Nor would I want to lose the #1 cable show in history if I were A&E.

As for all of this being an attack on Christianity and Civil rights. I wouldn't say A&E is guilty of the latter, but it's possible they are of the former (given their censoring of 'Jesus' earlier on in the show). It could be argued however that many in the media are attacking both Christianity and Phil's 1st ammendment rights. It of course is their right to do so, so long as they aren't successful in their attacks. Then Phil can sue, and probably win if he can prove he suffered tangible losses as the result of such attacks. :)

I think it's debatable if his statements were ignorant or not. I really can't say they were or weren't based on what little he did say.



December 20, 2013 at 3:08 AM  

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