NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. cable television network A&E suspended Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the backwater Louisiana clan in its hit reality show "Duck Dynasty," on Thursday for making anti-gay comments.
Robertson, the bearded founder of the Duck Commander company in the show about hunting, fishing and domestic squabbles that draws millions of viewers, was put on indefinite leave for his remarks in an interview in the men's magazine GQ.
"Start with homosexual behavior and just morph from there," Robertson, 67, said when asked what is sinful. "Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men."
A&E said it was extremely disappointed after reading Robertson's remarks, which it added were his personal views and did not reflect those of the network.
"The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely," it said in a statement.
Gay rights group GLAAD condemned Robertson's comments, saying he knows nothing about gay people.
"Phil's decision to push vile and extreme stereotypes is a stain on A&E and his sponsors, who now need to reexamine their ties to someone with such public disdain for LGBT people and families," GLAAD said in a statement.
But not everyone thought Robertson's comments merited a suspension.
"Free speech is an endangered species: Those 'intolerants' hatin' & taking on Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing personal opinion take on us all," tweeted former U.S. Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, also a Republican, criticized A&E's reaction and described Robertson and his family as "great citizens of the State of Louisiana."
"The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with," Jindal said in a statement.
"I don't agree with quite a bit of stuff I read in magazine interviews or see on TV. In fact, come to think of it, I find a good bit of it offensive. But I also acknowledge that this is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views."
Faith Driven Consumer, a group that connects Christian shoppers with faith-compatible companies, started a petition drive to reinstate Robertson immediately.
"Simply put, Phil Robertson is being censored and punished for quoting the Bible, and A&E's treatment of him is punitive and highly discriminatory," said Chris Stone, the organization's founder.
Robertson's suspension casts a cloud over the future of "Duck Dynasty," which drew 11.8 million viewers in August for the debut of its fourth season, a record for a cable nonfiction series, according to A&E.
The TV show has also spawned diverse merchandise, from books, bobblehead dolls, sporting goods and apparel to antibacterial bandages and camouflage reclining furniture. A&E's online store has more than 300 "Duck Dynasty" products.
(Reporting by Patricia Reaney; Editing by Mary Milliken and Lisa Von Ahn)