A Republican congressional candidate is defending A&E "Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson by likening him to a hero of the civil-rights movement.
Ian Bayne, a candidate for the 11th congressional district in Illinois, hailed the Lousiana family patriarch for his anti-gay comments to GQ magazine. Robertson was suspended "indefinitely" by the network.
"In December 1955, Rosa Parks took a stand against an unjust societal persecution of black people, and in December 2013, Robertson took a stand against persecution of Christians," wrote Bayne in an email to supporters.
"What Parks did was courageous," said Bayne. "What Mr. Robertson did was courageous too."
In 1955, Parks refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus for a white person. After Parks was arrested and convicted of violating "Jim Crow" laws, local black community leaders organized a bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama.
Bayne's email said the candidate believed that Robertson was aware of the probably repercussions from his comments, and that "going on GQ would result in the current controversy going on surrounding his suspension, as well as his suspension."
Bayne's email praised Robertson for providing "an eye opener for many who may have been previously in disbelief that the bible is fast becoming considered 'hate speech' by the media and society."
But Robertson's comments about blacks during the Jim Crow era have also ignited controversy, specifically from those involved in the civil rights movement.
"I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once," Robertson told GQ about growing up in Louisiana in the 1950s and 1960s. "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," he continued. "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."
Bayne is not the first conservative to back the A&E star. Just a day after the network suspended Robertson, conservatives including Governor Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin rushed to Robertson's defense, citing the First Amendment.
Bayne is vying with three other Republican candidates in a primary next year to challenge Democratic Congressman Bill Foster.