In the fallout over Wednesday’s suspension of “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson by A&E for anti-gay and racist remarks, GLAAD is experiencing record levels of backlash.
“In the five-and-a-half years I’ve worked at GLAAD, I’ve never received so many violently angry phone calls and social media posts attacking GLAAD for us speaking out against these comments,” the media watchdog organization’s vice president of communications Rich Ferraro told TheWrap.
He said those reactions range from those who simply believe as Robertson believes to those who feel that GLAAD and A&E’s actions limit the reality star’s free speech.
“I don’t think this is about the first amendment,” Ferraro said. “I feel it’s more about the America we live in today. That is one where Americans, gay and straight, are able to speak out when people in the public eye make anti-gay and racist remarks.”
Robertson’s supporters have started petitions, called for boycotts and include Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity and Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal. Currently, more than 70,000 people have signed the online petition asking A&E to drop the suspension.
“It just means we still have a lot of work to do,” Ferraro said.
GLAAD spoke with A&E representatives on Wednesday morning to discuss why people would be offended by the comments and calls to action. “They took this very seriously, as soon as the news broke,” Ferraro said.
After the meeting, GLAAD issued its statement on Robertson’s comments. A&E initially released a statement from Robertson in which he said he would “never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me.” But the network declined to comment itself until Wednesday night, when it announced the suspension, which GLAAD applauded.
“We believe the next step is to use this as an opportunity for Phil to sit down with gay families in Louisiana and learn about their lives and the values they share,” the spokesman said.
The organization is also currently researching companies who use Robertson as a spokesperson.
“Silence is agreement in this case,” he said. “With such egregious anti-gay and racist comments, those companies that choose to be affiliated with this family need to speak out.”