LOS ANGELES - Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson will return to work on A&E's reality show despite his comments about gay immorality, the channel said Friday, reversing its decision to suspend him after facing a backlash and threatened boycott.
In a statement Friday, A&E said it was bringing Robertson back after discussions with his Louisiana family featured in the reality series and "numerous advocacy groups."
Last week, the channel had put Robertson on what it called an indefinite hiatus because of his comments in a GQ magazine article that the Bible views gays as sinners akin to adulterers, prostitutes, and swindlers.
A&E said it decided to drop Robertson from the show about a wealthy family that makes duck calls because it is part of a company whose core values are "centered around creativity, inclusion, and mutual respect."
Robertson's remarks were quickly slammed by groups including GLAAD, the gay rights watchdog organization. But A&E's move against Robertson provoked a flood of support from those who share his views and others who defended his right to free speech.
A petition calling for A&E to bring him back reached 250,000 signatures and counting in about a week.
Robertson's well-known supporters included former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who complained that his free-speech rights were being trampled.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal complained that actress/singer Miley Cyrus got a pass for twerking on TV while Robertson got shown the door.
Reiterating that Robertson's views were not those of the channel, A&E noted Friday he had publicly said he would "never incite or encourage hate." The show is about more than one man's views, it added.
"It resonates with a large audience because it is a show about family, a family that America has come to love. As you might have seen in many episodes, they come together to reflect and pray for unity, tolerance, and forgiveness," A&E said.
Last week, the family said on its Duck Commander website that although some of Robertson's comments were coarse, "his beliefs are grounded" in the Bible and he "is a godly man." The statement also said, "as a family, we cannot imagine the show going forward without our patriarch at the helm."