Is bigotry bad for business? Executives at A&E might be asking that question this week after their top-rated reality show Duck Dynasty took a ratings dive in its season five premiere episode Wednesday night.
The program’s numbers were still strong by cable TV standards, with 8.5 million viewers, but the ratings dropped by nearly 30% from the season four premiere, which had drawn a record-setting 12 million viewers. The premiere episode’s ratings came in slightly under a special Christmas episode that aired shortly before the show’s patriarch made headlines with controversial comments in a GQ interview.
The two premiering episodes, “Boomerang Becca” and “Willie’s Number Two,” are the first new installments from the series since Phil Robertson’s interview in which he made critical comments about homosexuality and said that “blacks” were happy in “pre-entitlement, pre-welfare” American and that “no one was singing the blues.”
A&E initially responded by suspending Robertson from the show “indefinitely” over the comments, spurring a loud backlash from the right. Politicians from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin stepped up to defend him. An Alabama lawmaker introduced legislation to have the state formally support him, and an Illinois Republican went so far as to compare him to Rosa Parks.
Within a few weeks, A&E announced they were reversing the suspension and that Robertson would continue to be a part of the show.