How Phil Robertson Became So Hated In Hollywood

Phil Robertson is the patriarch of the reality show family featured on A&E's Duck Dynasty. The official bio on the Duck Dynasty site paints the picture of a man who earned both a bachelor's and master's degree in the education fields, but ultimately decided academia was not for him. He headed out into the backwoods, and built a fortune on the most unlikely of businesses: making duck calls.

Robertson says, "No duck would even place in a duck calling contest," and also says his duck calls are for "duck killers" rather than the amateur sort that only use them in calling competitions. Far from being just a respected entrepreneur, Robertson's visibility as a reality show star has helped to make him one of the most controversial and widely-hated figures in Hollywood and across the country. Why? We'll let him speak for himself.

His anti-gay hate speech

The entire Robertson family is incredibly religious, and they attend the White's Ferry Road Church of Christ in Monroe, Louisiana. The church has been featured on the show more than a few times, and the family's religious beliefs are usually at the heart of even their most controversial statements.

In 2013, Robertson gave GQ and reporter Drew Magary an inside look at the Duck Commander dynasty. The conversation eventually turned to sin, and when Robertson was asked just what he considered sinful, he replied, "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. Don't be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers — they won't inherit the kingdom of God."

He went on to say he's not the one who's doing the actual judging, and he's leaving that part up to God. God, he says, will judge them all: "Whether they're homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort 'em out later."

The interview ran on December 17, and on December 18, Time was reporting Robertson had been put on an indefinite suspension from Duck Dynasty for his comments. But at the same time some people were outraged at his hate speech, others were demanding he had the right to voice his opinions. Only days later, Variety reported he had been reinstated after conversations with gay rights groups. There had been, effectively, no suspension at all.

The continued hate speech

Rather than opt to just simply let it go, Robertson has since continued spewing more and more anti-gay hate speech. In May 2016, he sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to talk about his role in a Cannes Film Festival piece called Torchbearer, and the conversation quickly turned dark. He was quick to defend his previous comments, saying that not only did he not regret even giving his opinion in the first place, but that, "[...] all sex outside a man and a woman in marriage is sin, Biblically speaking."

That came right on the heels of his very vocal condemnation of the idea of transgender bathrooms. CNN reported his comments were emailed in conjunction with his support for an anti-Hillary Clinton film, and he was quoted as saying, "Just because a man may 'feel' like a woman doesn't mean he should be able to share a bathroom with my daughter, or yours. That used to be called common sense. Now it's called bigoted."

The whole thing went even further in July 2016, when Robertson spoke at Denver's Western Conservative Summit. He cited statistics that included 160,000 recent murders, and suggested they were the direct result of a nationwide shift in morality that came after the Supreme Court's 2015 decision regarding the legalization of gay marriage. Robertson has said he doesn't actually hate people who are gay, and that the comments he's made have been misconstrued. According to him, he's just "trying to help those poor souls and turn them to Jesus."

His promotion of marrying teenage girls

In 2014, CNN got a hold of a video clip that was originally posted on YouTube in 2009. In it, Robertson was seen giving what he called "river rat counseling" at a Georgia Sportsmen Ministry event. He's talking about marriage in the clip, and says he believes the ideal age to marry a girl is when she's 15 or 16. "Look, you wait 'til they get to be 20 years old, the only picking that's going to take place is your pocket," he says. "You got to marry these girls when they are about 15 or 16. They'll pick your ducks."

He also specifies that it's important to pick the right woman, and by that, he means someone who can cook and someone who carries her Bible with her all the time. He does also advise that you should probably consult with a girl's parents before you marry your 15-year-old, but maintains that's still the perfect age for settling down and starting a family.

Even The Christian Science Monitor came out in opposition to the idea, citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that said almost half of marriages that took place between people younger than 18 ended in divorce within 10 years. In some places, his advice isn't even legal.

Claims AIDS and STDs are God's punishment for the immoral

Robertson released his book UnPHILtered in 2014, and while he was promoting it, he spoke on the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins radio show. There, he shared the belief that AIDS and STDs are God's way of punishing people who are gay and otherwise sexually immoral.

"Do you think it's a coincidence that all of these debilitating — literally that can cause death — diseases follow that kind of conduct? God says, 'One woman, one man,' and everyone says, 'Oh, that's old hat, that's old Bible stuff.' But I'm thinking, well let's see now. A clean guy — a disease-free guy and a disease-free woman — they marry and they keep their sex between the two of them. They're not going to get chlamydia, and gonorrhea, and syphilis, and AIDS. It's safe."

He goes on to say that it's only when you get outside of those confines that people are punished, and that it's pretty clear what's going on here.

His ideas on "No Jesus" societies: the Japanese, Islam and the Nazis

Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2015, Robertson got both cheers and moments of stunned silence, according to the International Business Times. In addition to making the bizarre declaration that "Jesus is the only thing between you and herpes," he went on to take aim at various societies that didn't accept Jesus.

When MSNBC reported on his speech, they called it rambling and occasionally incoherent. It was only in the last ten minutes he started in on Jesus-free societies, saying America needed to use the Bible as a weapon to keep out "the British" and "the Nazis," going on to say that there were a few things the Nazis, communists, ISIS, Islam, Stalin, and Shintoists all had in common — not only was there no Jesus, but they were all about "murder" and "territorial conquest."

Suggesting black people were happier pre-Civil Rights

A lot of the fallout over Robertson's infamous GQ interview came over his anti-gay comments, but there was a huge amount of racism buried in that interview, too.

Robertson, who grew up in Louisiana long before the idea of Civil Rights changed the country, was asked if he witnessed the hate and bigotry we hear about all the time. He responded with some pretty unthinkable comments, saying, "I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. 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. 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."

Later, Robertson tried to address the backlash over his comments with a strange attempt at justification that really didn't make a whole lot of sense. He said that he was nothing more than a product of the 1960s, and that he's most concerned with teaching anyone who will listen about Christ and the Bible, while definitely not hurting or disrespecting anyone. It's a baffling comment that leaves more unexplained than understood.

His graphic descriptions of rape, murder and atheism

In March 2015, Phil Robertson gave an incredibly disturbing speech at the Vero Beach Prayer Breakfast. It was based in the idea that since Christianity teaches that it's God who has given humanity a moral code to live by, someone who's an atheist clearly hasn't received that moral code. They don't know how to act, Robertson's theory goes, and they have no idea what's good and what's bad.

Robertson spun a horrible tale about two men breaking into the home of an atheist and tying him up. After raping and killing his daughters and beheading his wife, they start to torture him. Since he's an atheist, though, Robertson imagines his response to be, "[...] something about this just ain't right."

Not surprisingly, the atheist response was one of outright horror at the idea they think torture, murder and rape is acceptable behavior, just because they're atheists.

Preaching liberals are worse than Hitler and Stalin

At the same Vero Beach talk, he also took aim at another group he believes are sinners in league with Satan.


Just as he claimed groups like Nazis and communists were so evil because they hadn't accepted Jesus, Robertson went on a tirade about how not only was the liberal contingent of the US responsible for some horrible things, but they were also responsible for the murder of 63 million children. While it's not entirely clear where he's getting his information from, he says, "People call them left-wing loons, Bill O'Reilly calls them, political correct crowd, orthodox liberal opinion. [...] They've killed 63 million of their own children. 63 million. More than Hitler, more than Stalin. [...] You say, 'Who is behind it?' Their father is, he was a murderer, from the beginning, they are slaves to sin, they are controlled by the Evil One. Duh."

He goes on to talk about how it was guns and Bibles that allowed Americans to run "the Brits back to where they came from back there 240 years ago," and how it's the liberals that are trying to take those same guns and Bibles away. That, he says, makes it clear just who they're in league with.

His wife tells about a different side of him that almost drove her to suicide

For all of Robertson's holier-than-thou crusading and hate speech, he and his family tend to overlook the fact that he came from a very, very dark place that actually went against a lot of his teachings. In spite of his crusading views that sex should only happen between a man and a woman that are within the confines of marriage, Miss Kay told Us Weekly their first son was born before they were legally married. Even though they took a vow before God on March 22, 1964, the marriage wasn't legally recognized until April 11, 1968. She also says they joke about it now, which definitely isn't the message he's spreading to others.

When Miss Kay released her 2014 children's book D is for Duck Calls, she spoke about their previous challenges with an unsettling candidness. For 10 years, Miss Kay raised their sons and justified his abuse, alcoholism and infidelity by telling their boys it was the Devil that was making him do such horrible things, that it wasn't actually him, and that he wasn't responsible for his own actions.

According to RadarOnline, they got another glimpse into Miss Kay's world with an abusive husband. She wrote in The Women of Duck Dynasty, "I hit rock bottom. [...] I finally accepted the fact that I could not fix our lives and had no one to help. [...] realized I just wanted to go to sleep for a long time. I did not consciously want to kill myself, I just wanted to take enough Tylenol [...] to have a nice, long rest."

That's incredibly dark stuff, but unbelievably Miss Kay still says the worst advice she ever got while she was in that dark place was "when they told me to leave him."

A&E (and sponsors) appeared to back him up

Even as Robertson has continued to spew some of the most hateful thoughts in Hollywood and television, A&E's continued support of the reality star has only served to polarize public opinion even more. A&E's only attempt at sanctioning him for any of his comments ended before he even missed an episode, and that's left people wanting to know just why they continue to support him, his family, and his show. When Salon took a look at the network's wavering stance, they even found they had issued a statement saying he didn't actually mean what he had said. Robertson — and his family — quickly ran to make it clear that yes, they had meant it all.

When A&E suspended him for what amounted to a few days, the entire family issued a statement saying they absolutely stood by him, making it clear that continuing the show was an all-or-nothing deal. They claimed he was "placed on hiatus for expressing his faith, which is his constitutionally protected right."

Salon suggested the continuation of Duck Dynasty was for a very simple reason: money. The same year Robertson's beliefs went public, Bloomberg estimated the show had brought in $480 million between merchandise and advertising. That's a lot to give up, and Salon suggests it came down to a fight between money and morals.

A&E isn't the only one to face that question, and at the same time the fate of the show seemed up in the air, Cracker Barrel was removing Duck Dynasty merchandise from their shelves. Social media was outraged, with NBC News reporting more than 5,000 comments were posted on their Friday Facebook announcement they were pulling Duck Dynasty merchandise. Cracker Barrel caved, and the merchandise was back in stores on that same Sunday.

So, how can he fix this mess?

Phil Robertson has had years to mend fences with the communities he's offended, and in those years he's continued to preach his damning rhetoric from the highest pulpits — sometimes, quite literally. With his family and his wife standing by him, he's continuously defended his right to be anti-gay, uber-conservative and to condemn the Civil Rights movement. By now, any attempts at an apology will likely be met with ridicule, and it's unlikely he's going to ever go that route anyway. According to Robertson, "I love all men and women. I am a lover of humanity, not a hater."

He said that in 2013, and no one believed him then.

In November 2016, Duck Dynasty announced the 11th season would be their last. With a season finale scheduled for April 12, 2017, it seems likely the only way Phil Robertson might mend his reputation is to go away and hope people forget he exists.