(RNN) - The future of A&E's popular reality show Duck Dynasty is in question after the network suspended the show's patriarch, Phil Robertson, for comments he made about homosexuality.
Meanwhile, controversy is building over his comments about race relations in rural Louisiana during his childhood that evoked heated response from civil rights organizations.
And the debate has heightened with the surfacing of a 50-minute, 2010 video in which he gives a sermon in Pennsylvania that contains further contentious comments on homosexuality.
A&E put Robertson on indefinite hiatus on Wednesday after he called homosexuality illogical and a sin in a profile piece in GQ.
The Robertson family released a statement saying they are disappointed he was placed on hiatus "for expressing his faith, which is a 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," the statement read. "We are in discussions with A&E to see what that means for the future of Duck Dynasty."
Among other comments, Robertson told the magazine "[A woman has] more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I'm saying? But hey, sin: It's not logical, my man. It's just not logical."
Robertson went on to say "Everything is blurred on what's right and what's wrong. Sin becomes fine."
"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," he told the magazine before paraphrasing a portion of 1 Corinthians 6 from the Bible.
"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. Don't deceive yourself. It's not right."
The family acknowledged that some of his "unfiltered comments" were "coarse," but insisted "Phil would never incite or encourage hate."
Robertson said black people were happy and godly before the civil rights movement and he never witnessed racism or discrimination in rural Louisiana.
"I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once," he told GQ. "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," he said.
The letter, addressed to A&E president Nancy Dubuc, called Robertson's comments "racist, homophobic and ill-informed."
"Mr. Robertson claims that, from what he saw, African Americans were happier under Jim Crow. What he didn't see were lynching and beatings of black men and women for attempting to vote or simply walking down the street," the letter said.
Morris Dees, founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, also issued a statement denouncing Robertson's comments, saying in part, "Regardless of Robertson's personal experiences, this idea that African-Americans had it good during Jim Crow is the same kind of historical revisionism that we hear from Holocaust deniers who want us to ignore the lessons of history."
Robertson's supporters have come forward as well. The Facebook page Bring Back Phil has more than 250,000 likes.
Tens of thousands have signed a change.org petition to return him to the show.
"Freedom of speech along with freedom of religion is being attacked every single day in this country," the petition reads. "Phil Robertson simply stated what his convictions are... Phil has done nothing more than state what he believes in."
The show has been a ratings juggernaut for A&E. The show's August premiere brought in 11.8 million viewers. The fifth season is set to begin in January.
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