It would appear one of the stars of a reality-television show called “Duck Dynasty” has managed to open a new front in the culture war. That wouldn’t be especially noteworthy were it not for the misguided arguments coming from prominent Republican officials.
Apparently, Phil Robertson made a series of offensive comments during an interview, leading A&E, which airs the reality show, to suspend him. This in turn created a conservative backlash, not against the man who went on the bizarre tirades, but against the network that pays him to put him on TV.
Consider this statement from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R):
“Phil Robertson and his family are great citizens of the State of Louisiana. The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with. I don’t agree with quite a bit of stuff I read in magazine interviews or see on TV. In fact, come to think of it, I find a good bit of it offensive. But I also acknowledge that this is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views. In fact, I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment.“It is a messed up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended.”
Obviously, folks can draw their own conclusions about the reality-show star’s bigotry and the degree to which it’s offensive. But there seems to be some confusion about what the First Amendment means.
A&E is a television network, not an extension of the government, and this private enterprise decided to suspend an employee who said dumb things to a reporter. But note, Phil Robertson is still free to say whatever he wants to say, to whomever he wants to say it, whenever it suits his fancy. His free-speech rights remain entirely intact.
“I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment”? Whether Bobby Jindal understand this or not, the Constitution does not entitle Americans to their own cable reality shows. A&E isn’t censoring anyone; it’s simply distancing itself from a man on their payroll who said offensive things – and since private companies are not required to tolerate bigotry from their employees, the company’s actions are hardly outrageous.
The freedom of speech does not mean the freedom to have someone pay you for your speech. And with this in mind, Phil Robertson’s First Amendment rights have not been infringed, by his employer or anyone else. Either Bobby Jindal needs to brush up on the basics of civil liberties or his willingness to pander to confused social conservatives has somehow reached new depths.