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December 20th, 2013
05:47 PM ET

Will A&E slay its golden 'duck'?

(CNN) - Mess with the papa duck, and apparently the whole raft gets rattled. The family behind A&E's hit reality show "Duck Dynasty" is standing behind its patriarch, who was suspended over controversial comments he made about blacks and homosexuality.

The feud could mean the show's future is up in the air.

Phil Robertson was roundly criticized for comments he made to GQ magazine, where he called homosexuality a sin, and also painted a pretty rosy picture of what life was like for African Americans in rural Louisiana during the pre-civil rights era.

"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," GQ quoted Robertson as saying.

The comment glosses over a lack of voting rights, Klan lynchings, and constant reminders of one's second-class status. Not to mention that the blues was born out of the struggle of African Americans in the deep south.

For A&E, "it wasn't a very long and tortured discussion," said editor-in-chief & CEO of thewrap.com Sharon Waxman. Waxman spoke exclusively with a top executive at A&E about how the company decided to suspend Robertson.

"They took that decision fairly quickly, fairly decisively," said Waxman. When the GQ article came out, gay and lesbian advocacy group GLAAD called A&E early in the morning.

"Very quickly that day, the CEO of A&E, who is a very powerful executive, runs the network, took the decision to put Robertson on hiatus," said Waxman.

In addition to comments Robertson made in the GQ article, a video surfaced Friday showing him referring to homosexuals as "god haters" during a church event back in 2010.

The mounting controversy could affect the future of the popular "Duck Dynasty" franchise. Forbes predicted $400 million in "Duck Dynasty" merchandise would be sold this year, including two best selling books and a Christmas album on the Billboard charts.

For A&E, the show has been ratings gold and a financial boon. Now it faces threats of a boycott from Robertson's supporters.

What A&E is saying is "this goes against our fundamental values as a company. Don't forget also, they have other networks at A&E - Lifetime and History Channel, and they have a broad base of viewers that also includes people who don't agree with Phil Robertson's views," said Waxman.

For more of our interview with thewrap.com's Sharon Waxman, watch the video above.

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