Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

c.2013 New York Times News Service

The indefinite suspension of Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the family at the center of the A&E Network’s huge ratings hit “Duck Dynasty,” became definite Friday — at zero episodes, when the network announced that he isn’t going to be suspended after all.

A&E released a statement, noteworthy both for its concessions to the Robertson’s family’s refusal to accept the suspension as well as its timing — at close of business on Friday of a holiday weekend on the slowest week of the year in the entertainment business.

The bottom line: Phil Robertson will resume work on the show when it begins taping new episodes in the spring.

The network moved to suspend Robertson on Dec. 18 after comments he made about gay people in a magazine interview. At the time A&E described the comments, which described homosexual acts in crude terms and labeled them a sin, as extremely disappointing and not reflective of the network.

The suspension stirred an uproar among fans of the show and also conservative political and religious leaders. More than 250,000 signed a petition demanding Phil Robertson’s reinstatement.

More ominously, the family issued a statement saying in effect that there would be no show without their patriarch.

A&E bowed to the pressure and released a new statement Friday, accompanying the news that Robertson would miss no episodes. The statement cited Robertson’s later comments that his views were in no way intended to “incite or encourage hate,” as well as the way the Robertson family’s interaction in the show demonstrated values like “unity, tolerance and forgiveness.”

A&E also promised to initiate a public service campaign endorsing those values.

“Duck Dynasty” is by far the highest rated show on A&E.