UPDATE: A&E has announced Phil Robertson will return to Duck Dynasty in 2014 after his brief suspension, which was still more punishment than Republican Committeeman Dave Agema has received for his anti-gay comments.
Phil Robertson, star of A&E’s hit reality show Duck Dynasty, has been suspended indefinitely after publication of anti-gay comments sparked an uproar.
“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” Robertson told a reporter from GQ in a rant that included him explaining why he prefers a vagina to a man’s anus.
GLAAD spokesman Wilson Cruz applauded the cable network’s decision. “What’s clear is that such hateful anti-gay comments are unacceptable to fans, viewers, and networks alike,” he said. “By taking quick action and removing Robertson from future filming, A&E has sent a strong message that discrimination is neither a Christian nor an American value.”
Robertson is clearly an influential pop culture figure, especially to those on the far right who celebrate his full-throated anti-abortion rights stands. His family’s endorsement of Republican Vance McAllister for Congress helped the candidate win a recent special election.
But he’s an entertainer famous for his irascibility and his duck calls.
Dave Agema, on the other hand, is the Republican National Committeeman from Michigan.
Earlier this year, the former member of Michigan’s state house posted a message on Facebook that linked to an article by a known white supremacist who listed a series of statistics fabricated to make the case that homosexuals are filthy.
The Republican National Committee responded within days — by unanimously approving Agema’s resolution denouncing same-sex marriage.
This month Agema made a speech where he said gay people only want free health care because they’re dying of AIDS when they’re 30-44 years old as a segue into explaining that he’s against same-sex marriage because it’s “a Biblical issue.”
The committeeman’s website features a link where people can “do the research” about traditional marriage. Among the “research” is a series of links about homosexuals and HIV/AIDS.
The argument seems to be that the LGBT community should be denied marriage and health care because they can get a disease (one that straight people can—and do—easily contract as well). The implication being that the disease is a judgment from God that should inform policy decisions made in 2013. This anachronistic view prospered in the 1980s when the Reagan White House refused to even say the word “AIDS,” often laughing at the mention of the epidemic.
While Agema doesn’t connect the dots as colorfully as Duck Dynasty‘s Robertson, he’s making the same arguments: Being gay is a sinful “lifestyle” that should not be encouraged. And he’s going a step further than the reality star, and calling for actual punishment by the government by withholding health care and the right to marry. (Because conservatives believe the out-of-control government should not interfere in people’s private lives, remember?)
Robertson’s power comes from his ability to attract sponsors to his show. His comments threatened that, so A&E acted to stop the bleeding. But his opinions are just his opinions.
Agema has actual power to influence the policy of one of the two major political parties in America. How did the Republican Party react to his “outreach” to the gay community?
Last weekend at a meeting of the Michigan GOP, Agema was punished with — a partial standing ovation. Yes, he “received a standing ovation from some party members who carried signs showing a U.S. flag and Agema’s name, and polite applause from others,” according to the LivingstonDaily.com.
Some Republicans in the state have condemned the committeeman’s comments but others call him “a prophet.” But no prominent Republican is asking him to step down, even temporarily.
It comes down to this: If you’re a reality star, you’re held to a higher standard than a Republican Party official.