Last December, “Duck Dynasty”’s Phil Robertson was subjected to hard-boiled scrutiny after revealing a series of controversial opinions in an interview with GQ magazine. MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry also found herself in hot water when her guest panel singled out Mitt Romney’s adopted African-American grandson while teasing a photo of the Romney clan.
A&E suspended Robertson, the grizzled patriarch of their smash hit and cultural phenomenon “Duck Dynasty,” for making coarse, anti-gay remarks during an interview featured in GQ’s January issue.
Robertson philosophized, “It seems like, to me, a vagina – as a man – would be more desirable than a man’s anus.” He elaborated, “But hey, sin: it’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.” Robertson’s defenders insist that his suspension was in retaliation to a paraphrasing of biblical scripture, an affront to his freedom to express his religious beliefs.
Robertson also reflected fondly upon his childhood in rural Mississippi during the Jim Crow era, though numerous critics noted that his comments minimized the consequences of racial inequality in the South and derided the efforts of civil rights activists.
Both Robertson and A&E said very little in the wake of the incident, though thousands of “Duck” lovers flocked to social media to voice their support for Robertson and to petition for his return to the show. Nine days later, the network caved under pressure from the public and declared Robertson free to film once more.
However, “Duck Dynasty”‘s Season 5 premiere demonstrated a significant drop in ratings from the previous season. The season 4 premiere attracted a groundbreaking 12 million viewers, but Season 5 debuted to an audience of only 8.5 million people.
Just shy of two weeks later, MSNBC personality Melissa Harris-Perry was the subject of public ire after her guest panel, which included actress Pia Glenn and comedian Dean Obeidallah, ridiculed Mitt Romney’s family Christmas photo.
They primarily directed their jokes at Romney’s adopted infant grandson, Kieran, who is African-American. Glenn sang, “One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just isn’t the same,” a tune that usually ends with “one of these things just doesn’t belong.” Obeidallah claimed that the picture “really sums up the Republican Party and the RNC. At the convention, they find the one black person.”
The panel’s antics even offended Harris-Perry’s usual audience, who pointed out that they were in direct contradiction to the show’s stated mission to support the diverse spectrum of American families.
Nevertheless, Harris-Perry issued a tearful apology two days after the event, in which she emphasized her regret over the personal nature of the show’s comments and her ongoing support for families with transracially adopted children. Mitt Romney later appeared on FOX News and accepted Harris-Perry’s apology, quieting much of the media’s criticism.