Editorial: Don't blow a gasket over one man's opinion

Dec. 22, 2013 @ 06:07 AM

Everyone needs to just get a grip.

As a general rule, that applies to pretty much any situation. We are a nation of constant outrage, overreaction and hyperbole.

But today this applies specifically to the voices of outrage raised a few days ago over some of the comments that Phil Robertson, the father on the “Duck Dynasty” TV series, made in an interview with a writer for GQ magazine.

If you haven’t seen “Duck Dynasty,” it’s a semi-scripted “reality show” on the A&E cable network about a family in southern Louisiana who made a fortune making duck calls. The people are very country, and proudly so, and the show is about as big a hit as a cable network can have. The show’s popularity is the only reason someone like Robertson, whose only mode of dress is deep-woods casual and who apparently hasn't even trimmed his beard in decades, would be interviewed for a magazine featuring high-end men's fashion.

Part of the problem has been that many people reacted to third-hand accounts of Robertson’s remarks, not to the interview itself (which is easily found online at www.gq.com). For instance, the Associated Press said Robertson made remarks "disparaging gays as sinners akin to adulterers and swindlers. … He also said that, growing up in Louisiana before the Civil Rights movement, he never saw mistreatment of blacks.”

So did Robertson refer to homosexuals as sinners? If you read the interview, you find that, yes, he did.

But he also said that only God can pass judgment on people. Also from the interview:

“We’re Bible-thumpers who just happened to end up on television. … You put in your article that the Robertson family really believes strongly that if the human race loved each other and they loved God, we would just be better off.”

Did Robertson also say that when he was growing up he never saw mistreatment of black people? He did, but in the context of saying that he grew up in a poor family, so when he was young he worked as a field hand, side by side with black people doing the same work.

And he did say that black people were happier before welfare and entitlements – an opinion he likely would extend to white people too, if he were asked. But that just puts him solidly in the mainstream of conservative opinion right now.

And keep this all in perspective. Robertson is a 67-year-old, religious conservative from Louisiana, not an elected official, not an appointed bureaucrat, not a church leader, not even the star of the TV show he's on -- a TV show that a not inconsequential number of people have never even seen. A&E suspending him for his views as they were expressed in that interview is simply ridiculous.

More ridiculous, however, were the shouts that A&E was violating Robertson’s First Amendment rights. Just as many of Robertson’s critics appear not to have read the interview, many of his defenders appear not to have read the First Amendment.

The First Amendment prohibitsgovernmentfrom restricting your right to speak your mind. Private businesses are perfectly free to take action when someone on their payroll says something in a public forum that might be bad for business, much as we might disagree with that action.

Everyone needs to just take a breath and simmer down. Fans of the show certainly hope A&E will – the Robertson family issued a statement Thursday evening saying that they will not continue the show without Phil.