A&E announced Friday it is reversing its decision to oust patriarch Phil Robertson from the series "Duck Dynasty."
The cable channel had put Robertson on indefinite "hiatus" following statements he made in a GQ interview that disparaged homosexuals. In the same article Robertson, 67, also said that growing up in Louisiana before the Civil Rights movement, he never saw mistreatment of blacks.
A&E said in a statement it has decided to bring Robertson back after discussions with the Robertson family and "numerous advocacy groups."
The channel goes on to say that "'Duck Dynasty' is not a show about one man's views. It resonates with a large audience because it is a show about family… a family that America has come to love," and adds that "A&E has decided to resume filming 'Duck Dynasty' later this spring with the entire Robertson family."
Following publication of the GQ interview, Robertson's remarks were quickly condemned by gay media watch organization GLAAD.
"[Robertson] clearly knows nothing about gay people or the majority of Louisianans--and Americans--who support legal recognition for loving and committed gay and lesbian couples," GLAAD spokesperson Wilson Cruz said in a statement, adding, "Phil's decision to push vile and extreme stereotypes is a stain on A&E and his sponsors who now need to reexamine their ties to someone with such public disdain for LGBT people and families."
After A&E announced Phil's removal from the show, the extended Robertson clan rallied around the patriarch and issued a statement saying, "While some of Phil's unfiltered comments to the reporter were coarse, his beliefs are grounded in the teachings of the Bible. ... Phil would never incite or encourage hate. We are disappointed that Phil has been placed on hiatus for expressing his faith, which is his constitutionally protected right."
Support for Robertson also poured in from Sarah Palin, conservative groups and even the lieutenant governor of the Duck Commander's home state of Louisana.
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne said his office would be willing to help the Robertson family contact different producers should they fail to reach an agreement with A&E. "Regardless of one's views on Phil Robertson's statements, 'Duck Dynasty' has been an important representation of the state of Louisiana, inspiring prospective visitors and investors since its debut," said Dardenne in a statement.
Throughout his "hiatus," Robertson refused to back down and broke his silence only once, during a Bible study group on Dec. 22 when he said, "I will not give or back off from my path.
"All I did was quote from the scriptures, but they just didn't know it," he claimed of his anti-gay comments. "Whether I said it, or they read it, what's the difference? The sins are the same, humans haven't changed."
Fans of the star were invited to sign various petitions demanding Robertson be reinstated to the ratings-busting show. A Change.org petition had received over 118,000 signatures as of Friday. Another, on the site IStandWithPhil.com, had received over 260,000 signatures.
A&E also announced Friday that it is launching a public service campaign promoting "unity, tolerance and acceptance among all people, a message that supports our core values as a company, and the values found in 'Duck Dynasty.' These PSAs will air across our entire portfolio."
The fifth season of the hit series is scheduled to premiere Jan. 15.