Bring back Duck Dynasty Phil - fans
The suspension of Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson for insulting gays in a magazine interview has ruffled the feathers of the show's fans.
Fourteen hours after it emerged that Robertson had been placed on indefinite "hiatus" for telling GQ magazine, among other things, that gays were heading to hell, more than a half a million people backed an impromptu Facebook page demanding the A&E reality TV series be boycotted until he returns.
Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, who had her picture taken with Robertson, 67, last month, complained that his free speech rights were being trampled and Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana, where the show is filmed, complained that Miley Cyrus got a pass for twerking on TV while Robertson was shown the door.
T-shirts have gone on the market with the words: "I Don't Give a Duck About A or E, Bring Back Phil."
"It's a show that is promoting clean living and good moral values, and that's something we need more of today," Canadian fan Rick Peter, of Vernon, British Columbia, said.
It is also a show to which Robertson, who sports a beard that seemingly should qualify him for immediate membership in the rock group ZZ Top, is central.
When or if he will return - or if he willl ever really go away - is an open question.
Duck Dynasty is on hiatus until January 15 and a network spokesman said nine of next season's 10 episodes were already filmed. That means Robertson is probably not needed in front of the camera before next March, by which time this crisis may have blown over.
And blow over it will, eventually, says veteran Hollywood crisis publicist Howard Bragman, who is gay. He said Robertson would probably return to the show, perhaps after making a heartfelt apology.
"There's too much money at stake," said Mr Bragman, vice president of reputation.com.
"Although he plays kind of a hick on TV, I don't think he's dumb. I think he gets what's at stake here. And I hope people on his team, the network and his producers get the message that what he did was wrong. "
The Robertson family released a statement on the Duck Commander website today in which they expressed thanks for prayers and support. It said although some of Robertson's comments were coarse, "his beliefs are grounded" in the Bible and he "is a Godly man".
"We are disappointed that Phil has been placed on hiatus for expressing his faith," the statement said.
"We have had a successful working relationship with A&E but as a family, we cannot imagine the show going forward without our patriarch at the helm. We are in discussions with A&E to see what that means for the future of Duck Dynasty."
Robertson and his extended family became wealthy manufacturing duck calls and were turned into TV and pop culture stars by Duck Dynasty, which has set cable ratings records for a non-fiction series.
Duck Dynasty is often the highest-rated cable show on television and an episode last August that drew nearly 12 million viewers was the highest-rated of any show, cable or broadcast, that week.
Asked his definition of sinful behaviour by GQ, Robertson replied: "Start with homosexual behaviour and just go from there.
"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."
Another crisis publicist, Michael Levine, said A&E had no choice but to suspend Robertson. If not, it would have had to deal with complaints from gay rights groups that would have made advertisers skittish and damaged the Duck Dynasty brand, he said.
It is not the first time someone has been taken off a popular show for remarks or behaviour away from the cameras.
Isiah Washington was fired from Grey's Anatomy in 2007 for referring to one of his show's gay actors with a pejorative. More recently, Charlie Sheen's erratic behaviour got him thrown out of Two And A Half Men, even though the show was a hit and he was the star.