(The family pretty much agrees with what was reported here–make sure you read the update at the end of the post.)
This story by the National Catholic Register appears to shed some light on why A&E would dump their most popular star:
After A&E fired Phil Robertson for saying what every good Christian should believe, social media has been abuzz. One of the recurring themes has been puzzlement about why A&E would cut off its nose to spite its face. Duck Dynasty is the franchise right now. Why would they risk destroying their own cash cow?
To understand the why, we have to go back to the beginning. Duck Dynasty is not the show that they wanted, it is the show that got away from them.
It seems what the producers intended and what A&E envisioned with the show is much different than the show that they ended up with, but they didn’t do anything about it because it was so wildly popular and so wildly profitable. But even with all the money, they have never really been comfortable with what happened.
This is what happened. The whole idea of the show was to parade these nouveau riche Christian hillbillies around so that we could laugh at them. “Look at them,” we were supposed to say. “Look how backward they are! Look what they believe! Can you believe they really live this way and believe this stuff? See how they don’t fit in? HAHAHA”
When the producers saw the way the show was shaping up, different than they envisioned it, they tried to change course. They tried to get the Robertson’s to tone down their Christianity, but to their eternal credit they refused. They tried to add fake cussin’ to the show by inserting bleeps where no cussword was uttered. At best, they wanted to make the Robertson’s look like crass buffoons. At worst they wanted them to look like hypocrites.
They desperately wanted us to laugh at the Robertsons. Instead, we loved them.
This seems quite plausible. Basically, A&E thought that it was using their intolerance of people in flyover country to sell programs, but discovered too late that the joke was on them. Now, the way things are going, the Robertsons may well end up being able to buy A&E and fire the idiots running it.
One critical point should be made: Phil Robertson has a master’s degree in education, while Willie and his wife are also college graduates. Back in the 1970s, Phil was supporting his family by making duck calls in a shed, but they were able to turn duck calls into a multimillion dollar business even before A&E got involved.
While Phil Robertson’s priorities and lifestyle may be very different from most people’s, he sometimes shows hints on the program of being about a shrewd a judge of character as any man I have ever seen. The family may come across as dotty on TV, but they are certainly not dumb.
On a personal level, my family has been going through a very difficult time without very much in the way of family or friends nearby, and certainly without much to laugh about. While we had heard about Duck Dynasty, we had not seen any of the programs until late this year. We became curious what they were about so we decided to watch an episode. Within five minutes, we were all completely hooked. When we were discussing the controversy yesterday, my wife said, “The show taught me how to laugh again.” We are also inspired by how the family was able to pull itself out of poverty with a simply idea and a lot of hard work. Their family has stuck together through thick and thin, without losing their values, and without forgetting who they are.
And that’s nothing to laugh at.
A Robertson family source has exactly the same take on the situation. As reported in the Daily Mail:
You have to ask yourself, why this interview happened and why it ever became public. Someone from A&E was there and was aware of the kind of answers Phil was giving.
But despite that, they didn’t ever try to stop it or control it. Instead, they let it hit the headlines and then released a statement condemning it.
It is our belief that they knew what was going to happen and then used the situation to exercise control over Phil.
It is our understanding that when the TV executives came up with the concept for the show they wanted it to be a case of people laughing at a bunch of backward rednecks.
But when it didn’t turn out like that and people actually started identifying with the way the family behaved and were laughing with them, not at them, they became uncomfortable. It did not sit will with the New York TV types.
We believe they were also uncomfortable with the family’s insistence that there would be a strong religious presence in the show. They knew Phil was the driving force behind this and we think they have used this situation to bring him in line so they could steer the show back down the path they originally intended for it.
But they may have underestimated how united the family are and how committed they are to their beliefs. They also didn’t realize how much support Phil would get from the public, so things have backfired on them.