Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson will return to work on A&E's reality show despite his comments about gay immorality, the channel said Friday, reversing its decision to suspend him after facing a backlash and threatened boycott.
In a statement Friday, A&E said it was bringing Robertson back after discussions with his Louisiana family featured in the reality series and with "numerous advocacy groups."
Last week, A&E had put Robertson on what it called an indefinite hiatus because of his comments in a GQ magazine article that the Bible views gays as sinners akin to adulterers, prostitutes and swindlers. He also suggested that African-Americans were happier working in the fields before welfare.
A&E said it decided to drop Robertson from the show about a wealthy family that makes duck calls because it is part of a company whose core values are "centered around creativity, inclusion and mutual respect."
Robertson's remarks were quickly slammed by groups including GLAAD, the gay rights watchdog organization. But A&E's move against Robertson provoked a flood of support from those who share his views and others who defended his freedom of speech.
A petition calling for A&E to bring him back reached 250,000 signatures in about a week.
Robertson's well-known supporters included former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who complained that his free-speech rights were being trampled. Bobby Jindal, governor of the state of Louisiana, complained that singer Miley Cyrus got a pass for twerking on TV while Robertson got shown the door.
While reiterating that Robertson's views are not those of the channel, A&E noted Friday that he has publicly said he would "never incite or encourage hate." The show itself is more than one man's views, it added.
The Robertson family said it had no immediate comment.
Duck Dynasty is on hiatus until Jan. 15, and the network has said that nine of next season's 10 episodes have already been taped. That means Robertson likely wasn't needed in front of the camera before next March.
A&E said it intended to launch a national public service campaign "promoting unity, tolerance and acceptance among all people."