"Duck Dynasty" patriarch Phil Robertson was suspended "indefinitely" from the A&E show following anti-gay remarks he made in an interview with GQ, but a new statement from his family hints that the future of the entire show is now at risk as long as he's gone.
"Phil would never incite or encourage hate," the Robertson family wrote in the statement posted to their Duck Commander website. "We are disappointed that Phil has been placed on hiatus for expressing his faith, which is his constitutionally protected right."
Now the rest of the Robertsons might just be ready to take a voluntary hiatus if the situation stays the same.
"We have had a successful working relationship with A&E but, as a family, we cannot imagine the show going forward without our patriarch at the helm," they said.
The Robertsons are now in talks with A&E to find out just "what that means for the future" of "Duck Dynasty."
The network on Thursday declined to comment about the family's contractual obligations.
Five months ago, the prospect of the Robertsons continuing without the Duck Commander dad wasn't so unlikely. When asked how much longer he planned to be part of "Duck Dynasty," Phil told Parade at the time, "Not long. But I think it'll go on without me."
Now that doesn't seem so certain.
Read the Robertsons' full statement below:
We want to thank all of you for your prayers and support. The family has spent much time in prayer since learning of A&E's decision. We want you to know that first and foremost we are a family rooted in our faith in God and our belief that the Bible is His word. While some of Phil’s unfiltered comments to the reporter were coarse, his beliefs are grounded in the teachings of the Bible. Phil is a Godly man who follows what the Bible says are the greatest commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Phil would never incite or encourage hate. We are disappointed that Phil has been placed on hiatus for expressing his faith, which is his constitutionally protected right. We have had a successful working relationship with A&E but, as a family, we cannot imagine the show going forward without our patriarch at the helm. We are in discussions with A&E to see what that means for the future of Duck Dynasty. Again, thank you for your continued support of our family.
Many fans are are also standing behind Phil Robertson. A petition demanding his return to the popular A&E show has already garnered more than 116,000 signatures. There are also two Facebook pages supporting Robertson, one with 1.3 million likes, and the other with 1.4 million.
Viewers of the hit reality program wouldn't be the only ones to be disappointed if the show were to end. According to the Louisiana Entertainment office, which oversees film and television production in the state, "Duck Dynasty" was expected to generate more than $19 million for its first three seasons of production, executive producer Christopher Stelly said.
"There's no question the show's success has also provided indirect benefits to the state and local areas through increased travel and tourism in the area," he added.