By Robert Mann
Does Phil Robertson, the patriarch of A&E hit show “Duck Dynasty,” have a constitutional right to say any dumb or bigoted thing he wants?
Of course, he does.
Does the First Amendment prohibit A&E from removing Robertson from the network’s show if he should say something outrageous about the relationship between homosexuality and bestiality?
Of course, it doesn’t.
The First Amendment protects citizens from government punishment for their speech. It doesn’t mean that whenever you or I say something stupid or bigoted there must never be consequences.
That, it seems, is news to Gov. Bobby Jindal. Based on his statement today in defense of Robertson, if I were Jindal’s parents, I’d ask Brown University for a refund.
For those of you not familiar with this controversy, A&E suspended Robertson from the show after his quotes about homosexuality appeared in an interview with GQ magazine. In the interview Robertson said
“Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong. Sin becomes fine. . . . Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.”
Next, Robertson paraphrases Corinthians: “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.”
Robertson is clearly entitled to his views on homosexuality. I suspect had he just said, “Homosexual behavior is not consistent with my Biblical beliefs,” few people would have noticed. He’s an Evangelical Christian, living in one of the most conservative regions of the country. Who would expect him to embrace gay marriage?
But that’s not what Robertson said. Instead, he compared homosexuality to sex with animals.
And, so, how did Jindal respond (more important, why did Jindal respond) to this situation?
“It is a messed up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended,” Jindal said in a statement Thursday on his official website.
“Phil Robertson and his family are great citizens of the State of Louisiana,” Jindal said. “The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with. I don’t agree with quite a bit of stuff I read in magazine interviews or see on TV. In fact, come to think of it, I find a good bit of it offensive. But I also acknowledge that this is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views. In fact, I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment.”
So, Jindal implies that there might be something in Robertson’s interview that he doesn’t agree with. Of course, he could be talking about something he read in the latest edition of Field and Stream. Who knows?
Jindal, of course, wants to have it both ways. He wants to pander to his state’s homophobes, many of whom do agree with Robertson’s statement casting homosexuality as akin to bestiality.
But Jindal also wants his more tolerant constituents to believe that, perhaps, he disagrees with Robertson’s statement, but is just defending Robertson’s right to say it.
But that’s not exactly what Jindal’s statement says. He suggests that it should be unconstitutional for a television network to fire a performer for offensive comments.
Funny, I don’t recall Jindal’s full-throated defense of the First Amendment last year when Michael Walker-Jones, executive director of the Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE), suggested in the Times-Picayune | NOLA.com that some low-income parents are not qualified to decide where their children should attend school. The LAE later said that the comment was taken out of context.
For those comments, however, Jindal demanded Walker-Jones’ firing.
I guess it’s entirely proper for teachers unions to fire employees whose comments offend the governor. However, to Jindal, it’s a shocking violation of the First Amendment for a television network to suspend a personality who compares homosexuality to sex with animals.
And Jindal is telling his party to stop being stupid?
If Jindal disagrees with something Robertson said, then he ought to be brave enough to tell us what it is. Does he believe, like Robertson, that homosexuality is akin to bestiality?
His statement today suggests that he might.
More than anything, Jindal’s statement suggests that he’s a hypocrite and political coward who will stop at nothing to stoke the ignorance and fear of his bigoted constituents.
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Note: It’s also worth noting that House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, U.S. Sen. David Vitter and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne have joined Jindal in issuing statements today in support of Robertson. I hope journalists covering this story ask these leaders if they agree with Robertson’s statement in the GQ story about race relations in Louisiana:
Phil On Growing Up in Pre-Civil-Rights-Era Louisiana
“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field. . . . They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”
- Duck Commander Phil Robertson Talks About Why This Country Needs More Jesus (disclose.tv)
- A ‘Duck Dynasty’ endorsement in La. (politico.com)