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The news that "Duck Dynasty" patriarch Phil Robertson had been put on hiatus from A&E's ratings-busting reality TV show sent the Internet into overdrive Wednesday regarding the subject of outspoken celebrities and First Amendment rights.
A&E announced late Tuesday that Robertson, 67, would be off "Duck Dynasty" indefinitely after he disparaged gays in the January edition of GQ magazine. Robertson also said that, growing up in Louisiana before the Civil Rights movement, he never saw mistreatment of blacks.
In a statement, A&E said it was extremely disappointed to see Robertson's anti-gay remarks, which it said were based on his personal beliefs and do not reflect those of A&E Networks or the show. In response, Robertson referred to himself in a statement as "a product of the '60s" who indulged in sex and drugs until hitting bottom and accepting Jesus as his savior," and added he "would never treat anyone with disrespect" because they are different.
Whether audiences support or condemn the reality star is a mute point. Robertson is off the series for the forseeable future and joins a growing list of celebrities whose open mouth antics and often unchecked opinions resulted in a very public ousting.
Robertson's exit from "Duck Dynasty" comes in the wake of Alec Baldwin's removal from MSNBC following his use of an anti-gay slur during a New York City street encounter with a paparazzo. His show, "Up Late with Alec Baldwin," had aired only five episodes before the network pulled the plug on the Friday night chat fest. MSNBC said it was a "mutual parting and we wish Alec all the best."
The Emmy-winning former star of "30 Rock" had tweeted that he did not realize the profane phrase he used was offensive to gays and apologized. Baldwin's daughter Ireland even entered the fray, taking to Twitter in support of her dad. tweeting support for her dad.
"Sometimes we let our tempers get the best of us," Ireland wrote. "Tempers are like wildfires. Something or someone can easily fuel the fire...It takes a lot of strength for someone to release their anger."It takes a lot of strength and SUPPORT for someone to grow and become a better person. We all say things we don't mean. We all say things we can't take back."
Baldwin's mea culpa occurred at the same time fellow MSNBC anchor Martin Bashir found himself publicly in hot water over comments he made in response to Sarah Palin's remarks concerning slavery. Among other things, Bashir said that someone should defecate and urinate in Palin's mouth, a punishment delivered to some slaves.
Bashir apologized, but the comments continued to haunt him and he resigned from the network in early December, issuing the following statement: "It is my sincere hope that all of my colleagues, at this special network, will be allowed to focus on the issues that matter without the distraction of myself or my ill-judged comments."
"Big Brother" dominated headlines earlier in 2013 when contestants on the CBS reality competition were shown making racial and homophobic remarks on air. Aaryn Gries and Gina Zimmerman, two of the house guests caught on camera making the remarks, were fired from their jobs. The brouhaha resulted in "Big Brother" being one of the year's most searched TV show titles on Google and Yahoo.
Paula Deen had perhaps the most spectacular public ousting of recent times after she came under fire when a former manager of a Savannah, Ga., restaurant owned by Deen and her brother Bubba Hiers filed a $1.2 million lawsuit against the pair. The employee, Lisa Jackson, claimed she was sexually harassed by Hiers and that Deen used the N-word around her.
"Yes, of course," Deen said in the May 17 deposition of having used the slur, adding, "It's been a very long time."
Outrage and retribution were swift. The Food Network yanked her show off the air, Smithfield Foods dropped her as a celebrity endorser, and retailers such as Wal-Mart removed her products from shelves. The lawsuit was eventually dropped with lawyers signing a deal of which details were not released. But it was too little too late for Deen's public persona. The folksy chef's yet-to-be-released cookbook was scrapped by the publisher even though pre-sales were strong, and her cooking empire had crumbled.
In the aftermath, Deen has made only tentative steps back into the limelight. “I'm really looking forward to the future," Deen told the audience at a live cooking demonstration in Dallas in September. "It's good to be back at work... just thinking about the future, I’m going to get back out there and continue to do what I love to do… and that's cooking.”
In 2011, Charlie Sheen's epic meltdown dominated entertainment headlines for months and saw him fired from "Two and a Half Men," one of network television's top rating sitcoms. Sheen got the boot after publicly insulting "Men" creator Chuck Lorre and his other bosses on the CBS/Warner Bros. series. He also confessed to drug use, raucous partying and a polyamorous relationship.
Proof that the actor can indeed be bigger than the vehicle in which they star, Sheen went on to headline the FX sitcom "Anger Management," which will return for a third season in 2014.
Lest we think such occurrences are only a recent phenomenon, it was in 2006 that an anti-gay slur sent actor Isaiah Washington back to the ranks of the unemployed.
Washington played Dr. Burke for three seasons on "Grey's Anatomy" before he was dropped from the TV drama after it came to light that he used a gay slur directed towards his co-star T.R. Knight during an on-set argument with series lead Patrick Dempsey.
"I sincerely regret my actions and the unfortunate use of words during the recent incident on-set," Washington said in a statement following his removal from the show. "Both are beneath my own personal standards. … I have nothing but respect for my coworkers … and have apologized personally to everyone involved."
At the time Washington stated that he would love to come back to "Grey's," even in a cameo. That never eventuated. And though the actor has attained roles in smaller productions in the intervening years, his star has yet to overcome the very public tarnishing.