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'Duck Dynasty' anti-gay fallout sparks a debate over tolerance

NEW YORK/LOS ANGELES -- The suspension of TV personality Phil Robertson of A&E's hit reality show “Duck Dynasty” for making anti-gay comments has sparked a politically charged debate about religion and tolerance while casting doubt on the series' future.

Robertson, the patriarch of the backwater Louisiana clan on the reality show about hunting, fishing and domestic squabbles, was put on indefinite “hiatus” by the cable network A&E for his remarks to GQ magazine characterizing homosexuality as sinful behavior.

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph from there,” Robertson, 67, said when asked what is sinful. “Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.”

A&E, a joint venture of privately held Hearst Corp and Walt Disney Co., said it was disappointed after reading Robertson's remarks, which it added were his personal views and did not reflect those of the network.

“The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely,” it said in a statement.

A&E was not immediately available to comment beyond the statement.

“Duck Dynasty,” one of cable TV's top non-sports programs that has turned its bearded stars into celebrities, has spawned hundreds of merchandise items sold at retailers such as Target and Wal-Mart, from sporting goods and apparel to camouflage reclining furniture.

Reaction to Robertson's comments was swift from across the political spectrum with gay rights group GLAAD condemning the remarks while conservative politicians lined up to defend the reality TV star.

“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,” GLAAD said in a statement.

But those across the aisle, including former U.S. Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, leapt to Robertson's defense saying he was a victim of political correctness.

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