The Ottumwa Courier

Entertainment

December 23, 2013

In 'Duck Dynasty' hometown local loyalty prevails

(Continued)

Folks here don't care that Phil Robertson told a GQ reporter that gays are sinners who are going to hell. Or that as a youth he picked cotton with African-Americans and never saw "the mistreatment of any black person. Not once."

They do care that A&E suspended the show. The move, they say, was unfair and an affront to viewers, to the Robertsons and to Christians everywhere.

"The program and his comments take a snapshot and it doesn't represent the totality of what the guy is all about," said Richard Laban, the owner of Redneck Roots, a downtown West Monroe store that sells some 'Duck Dynasty' T-shirts and souvenirs.

"A&E reacted entirely too quickly," added Laban. "They really treated Phil as if he was a terrorist."

With its lakes and rolling hills and pine forests, West Monroe in northern Louisiana is Duck Country USA, a place where Robertson and his four sons built an empire on duck call devices and decoys before becoming wildly popular TV stars.

Politicians have taken a stand on the controversy — Sarah Palin posted a picture on her Facebook page of her with the reality show clan with the message, "Free Speech is an endangered species." Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal also lamented the suspension.

Even State Rep. Marcus Hunter — a Democrat and black man who represents West Monroe — issued a statement saying that "the faith and family structure exhibited by the Robertsons on the hit A&E show is part of the allure which makes it so special."

Hunter did say he would like to "enlighten" Robertson about the "challenges and triumphs of black people during and after Jim Crow."

To be sure, not everyone here agrees with the Robertsons.

John Denison, a former Monroe TV personality who is gay and the head of Forum for Equality, a group that advocates for the equality of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights, said he's appalled by Robertson's remarks.

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