Phil Robertson, the “Duck Dynasty” star and popular conservative icon who gained notoriety for making comments viewed as anti-gay, has been named the recipient of a free-speech award from the political action committee Citizens United.
Robertson will receive the “Andrew Breitbart Defender of the First Amendment Award" during this year's Conservative Political Action Conference, commonly known as CPAC, on Feb. 27 in Washington, D.C., Citizens United announced in a press release on Tuesday.
“In a time where conservative Christians are under attack by the media and pop culture, Phil Robertson continues to courageously stand by truth and his convictions,” David Bossie, president of the organization, said in a statement. "Even when the entire mainstream media demanded he disavow his beliefs and attempted to have him fired from his own hit show for expressing these beliefs, he stood firm in his faith."
Robertson was suspended from A&E following his rant to GQ in December 2013 in which he compared homosexuality to bestiality and opined on African-American life in the South. The TV network ultimately lifted Robertson’s suspension, and he returned to the highly-rated reality show. But politicians, ranging 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 civil rights icon Rosa Parks.
“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person,” Robertson said at the time. “Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field … They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’ — not a word! … Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”
His suspension from A&E made him an icon with part of the GOP, who invited him on stage last year at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans. Party leaders joined him, including Jindal and RNC chairman Reince Priebus.
Robertson will be the second recipient of the annual award. Last year, conservative talk radio host Mark Levin was the inaugural recipient.