Dave Smith: ‘Duck’ star just exercising right to free speech

Dave Smith: ‘Duck’ star just exercising right to free speech

The Westerly Sun

I was intrigued recently about all the talk regarding “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson and an opinion he expressed regarding homosexuality.

Robertson is one of the stars of the A&E reality show about a family who has made a fortune selling duck calls. Someone has also made a fortune merchandising the “Duck Dynasty” brand, which I assume is A&E. The bearded faces of the cast members are everywhere. You can buy “Duck Dynasty” clothing, greeting cards, calendars, drinking glasses, blankets, ties and ice chests, just to name a few.

It seems the network’s decision to indefinitely kick Robertson off the show has enraged right-wing radio and TV hosts, who have been encouraging their fans to contact the network and demand his reinstatement.

The new season of “Duck Dynasty” is slated to resume in mid-January. Nine of next year’s 10 episodes already are in the can, with shooting for the last one still three months away.

I read that Robertson earns an estimated $200,000 per episode, but the biggest surprise was the show pulled in 11.8 million viewers for its fourth season premiere.

“We are disappointed that Phil has been placed on hiatus for expressing his faith, which is his constitutionally protected right,” according to a statement from the family.

The family also said there would be no more shows without Phil.

It seems the family is ready to play hardball.

I have never watched a single “Duck Dynasty” show. I once stopped on an episode while channel surfing and quickly moved on because it was not my cup of tea. I’m not sure what people see in it.

But let me say that I join his family in supporting Phil’s first amendment right to free speech. I disagree with his view, but I do support his right to say what he believes. He must realize, however, that voicing one’s opinion comes with consequences.

He is an employee of A&E and I assume that by contract it has the right to fire him. A&E does not exist in a vacuum. There are certainly other viewers that might not share his sentiment. The network also has stockholders and employees it must pay. Networks cancel shows and fire actors all the time. It’s the nature of the beast.

I happen to work for a company that allows me to express my opinion, but I know there are boundaries I cannot cross. There is the boundary of good taste. There is also no place for spiteful and mean diatribes. While such things might draw a lot of attention, they could get me fired.

So, Phil has exercised his right to free speech. While it wasn’t while he was working, his profile is so big that it’s still a reflection on the show and the network. That’s why I believe he shouldn’t blame A&E for exercising its right to protect itself from the backlash. Besides, how many seasons could a show like “Duck Dynasty” actually run?

Now that he’s off the show, and he no longer represents A&E, he no longer has to answer to the network, only himself. It seems he doesn’t really need A&E’s money, and neither does his family. It was heartening to see his family stood by him during this controversy. I would have expected no less.

The rest of the reaction, however, has left me chuckling.

An Illinois congressional candidate compared Robertson to civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks. He called what Parks and Robertson did “courageous.”

Really? I’m sorry. That comparison is simply ludicrous.

One could be cynical and say the whole thing has been a ploy to boost ratings for “Duck Dynasty,” but I don’t think that is the case.

Among Phil’s prominent supporters are Sarah Palin, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and radio voice Sean Hannity. It’s no surprise that Fox News was all over the story.

The hand-wringing and mad faces are too much to take. Please don’t argue that Phil has been denied his right to free speech. He is simply being criticized for expressing his opinion.

Fox criticizes people every day for expressing their views. It seems it’s the network’s bread and butter. So when Fox and others criticize people for criticizing Phil, that’s funny.

I guess freedom of speech for some people only applies if it is something you want to hear.

David Smith is the editor of The Sun’s weekly publications. This is his personal opinion. He may be reached at dsmith@thewesterlysun.com.


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