I confess to never having heard of the reality television show “Duck Dynasty” until its patriarch, Phil Robertson, put his foot in his mouth and the A&E network tossed him off the air.
As fast as you can say “boycott,” however, A&E caved in and announced last week that it was reinstating Robertson.
In case you missed it, the patriarch got in trouble for openly displaying his homophobia and his racism, declaring in an interview that homosexuality is a sin comparable to infidelity and bestiality, and that blacks working in the cotton fields during the Jim Crow era were “singing and happy.”
As usual in these things, he went to the Bible to support his views on gays, picking and choosing scripture as Christian fundamentalists always do to defend their prejudices. It’s their default position.
But what struck me as the most fascinating point is how quickly those on the right wing of American politics so often rush to embrace such ignorance and intolerance.
Sarah Palin immediately checked in with a Facebook post that “those intolerants hatin’ and taking on the Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing his personal opinions are taking on all of us.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, the darling of the Texas tea party, wrote, also on Facebook, that “if you believe in free speech or religious liberty, you should be deeply dismayed over the treatment of Phil Robertson.”
The “freedom of speech” argument, like reaching for the Bible, also is one the right always jumps on, but that is as specious as defending such nonsense in the first place.
No one is challenging Robertson’s right to say anything he wants, no matter how offensive.
But there’s also no constitutional requirement for a media outlet to provide him a platform.
If there were restrictions on the freedom to make stupid comments, as Palin and others would have you believe, then Rush Limbaugh and some of the Fox News commentators would be drawing unemployment.
Just a few weeks ago, for instance, Limbaugh suggested that “somebody has either written this for him or gotten to him,” when Pope Francis issued his call for the Catholic Church to show compassion for the poor and criticized so-called trickle-down economics.
I loved the response to that from Tom Krattenmaker, a Portland, Ore.-based religious writer, who wrote in a column that “has someone gotten to the Pope, as Limbaugh suggests. Yes, actually, Jesus Christ apparently has.”
Some evangelicals, as Phil Robertson and his duck-hunting Louisiana family apparently are, have attempted to make themselves the victims in this affair by claiming the criticism of Robertson amounts to an assault on Christianity itself.
Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, said conservative Christians “feel like they’re under siege,” and that there was no animus expressed by Robertson, who was only paraphrasing from the Bible.
And therein Reed unknowingly put his finger squarely on the heart of the matter, and that is Christians who walk around with open Bibles but closed minds.
William Endicott is a former deputy managing editor for The Sacramento Bee.