Once “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson‘s indefinite suspension from the A&E hit was announced on Wednesday (Dec. 18) following his inflammatory comments regarding homosexuals and the Civil Rights era in GQ, supporters began pouring out of the woodwork, decrying the unfair treatment of their pop-culture hero.
Two high-profile supporters of Robertson and his homespun, Bible-based hate were — and do try not to be too shocked — Sarah Palin and Sen. Ted Cruz. Never ones to miss an opportunity to further the culture wars that keep them in business, both Palin and Cruz immediately issued statements via social media, inflating Robertson’s punishment to a violation of his First Amendment rights.
Palin jumped on Twitter, declaring, “Free speech is an endangered species. Those ‘intolerants’ hatin’ and taking on the ‘Duck Dynasty’ patriarch for voicing his personal opinion are taking on all of us.” Cruz took to Facebook a day later to defend Robertson and his show that “represents the America usually ignored or mocked by liberal elites.” He writes: “If you believe in free speech or religious liberty, you should be deeply dismayed over the treatment of Phil Robertson. Phil expressed his personal views and his own religious faith; for that, he was suspended from his job. In a free society, anyone is free to disagree with him — but the mainstream media should not behave as the thought police censoring the views with which they disagree.”
Here’s the thing, though: This situation with Robertson extends beyond free speech. No one has put a muzzle on Phil Robertson. And nowhere in the Bill of Rights does it say that freedom of speech is guaranteed sans any repercussions whatsoever. You and I are all free to say whatever we’d like, whenever we’d like to. That doesn’t mean the rest of the world is barred from reacting.
This is something Palin has even agreed with recently, however much she’d like you to forget. Last month, when Martin Bashir resigned from his MSNBC show after some remarkably ugly language regarding Alaska’s former governor (including suggesting someone use her mouth as a toilet), Palin took to “Fox & Friends” to comment. “Those with that platform, with a microphone, a camera in their face, they have to have some more responsibility taken,” she argued. And she was right. Bashir ought to have been, and was, held accountable for his ugly rhetoric.
However, where Palin betrays her own argument is when she so steadfastly refuses to apply it to her friends, to those on her “side.” Does Robertson not have a platform? A microphone? A camera in his face? The man stars on the No. 1 rated non-scripted cable series OF ALL TIME. Talk about a platform.
What it boils down to is this: We can’t pick and choose whose freedom of speech is worth defending. And we can’t presume that our freedom of speech comes without consequence. Phil Robertson made his bed. Now it’s time he lie in it.