"Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson's comment to GQ magazine grouping homosexuality with bestiality was the straw that broke the camel's back as far as A&E's top executive was concerned, who reportedly "carefully" considered all of Robertson anti-homosexual remarks before suspending Robertson from the show, according to TheWrap.
A network exec reportedly told the website that Nancy Dubuc, the CEO of A&E Networks, ultimately reached the suspension decision because Robertson's remarks were in conflict with "the fundamental values of the company." Dubuc's response was, at least in part, prompted by concerns of company employees, the executive said.
"She gathered all the information, assessed it, thought seriously about this," said the executive. "It's a dilemma."
Dubuc is one of the most powerful television executives in Hollywood, overseeing A&E, Lifetime and History channels. TheWrap reported that "Duck Dynasty" is the highest-rated reality show on the air.
The executive told the website that arguments that A&E trampled Robertson's free speech rights were ridiculous, as a suspension from a television show did not curtail his ability to speak freely. The executive also said any idea that A&E had a conflict with Christianity was absurd, considering A&E's History recently aired the hit miniseries, "The Bible."
The decision to suspend Robertson came Wednesday night, hours after a phone call between A&E executives and GLAAD, the civil rights group told TheWrap.
"They took this very seriously, as soon as the news broke," said Rich Ferraro, a GLAAD spokesman.
A&E initially released a statement from Robertson in which he said he would "never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me." The network itself declined to comment until Wednesday night, when it announced the suspension.
Emotions over the matter are running high. Talk show host Sean Hannity gave out the numbers on the air Thursday of Dubuc and A&E Chairwoman Abbe Raven, and both received personal messages on Twitter. Some called for a boycott.
"Dear @AETV, congratulations, you just committed suicide," one "Duck Dynasty" fan wrote.
GLAAD said it has never received as many angry calls and emails about a position as it did about "Duck Dynasty."
"In the five-and-a-half years I've worked at GLAAD, I've never received so many violently angry phone calls and social media posts attacking GLAAD for us speaking out against these comments," Farraro said.
Robertson's family, which comprises the cast of "Duck Dynasty," issued a statement Thursday night that places doubt over whether the show will continue.
"We have had a successful working relationship with A&E," the statement read, "but, as a family, we cannot imagine the show going forward without our patriarch at the helm. We are in discussions with A&E to see what that means for the future of Duck Dynasty. Again, thank you for your continued support of our family."
(Read the entire statement.)
Filming for Season 5, which debuts Jan. 15, has finished and features Robertson in the 10 episodes.