Updated Friday, 6:14 p.m.:
A&E Networks announced that it will lift Robertson’s suspension and resume filming “Duck Dynasty” with Robertson next season. The creators of Chick-Phil-A have not announced whether or not they plan to carry through with the event in light of the news. Updates will be posted here.
The ongoing battle between Phil Robertson fans and gay-rights advocates is turning into a game of chicken -- literally.
This week, devotees of the ousted “Duck Dynasty” star launched “Chick-Phil-A National Support Day,” a Facebook page and corresponding event in which Robertson supporters plan to show their solidarity by eating at one of Chick-fil-A’s more than 1,700 locations.
While the event is being touted as demonstration for free speech, the fast-food venue in question could not be more calculated. Last year, Chick-fil-A’s chief operating officer, Dan Cathy, sparked a nationwide controversy when he said publicly that he supported the “biblical definition of the family unit.” Gay-rights supporters responded with protests and boycotts across the country, which then sparked a backlash to the backlash when Fox News’ Mike Huckabee arranged Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.
For the new event -- which has attracted more than 60,000 planned attendees as of Friday afternoon -- Robertson enthusiasts are being asked to wear their Duck Commander gear and chow down on some Chick-fil-A sandwiches. But this time around, the privately held Chick-fil-A Inc. is attempting to distance itself from the controversy. The Atlanta-based company is telling news outlets that it has absolutely nothing to do with Chick-Phil-A Day.
Similarly, the event’s Facebook page states in all caps that it is not affiliated with the fast-food chain or with Robertson, who was suspended from his wildly popular A&E reality show earlier this month after making anti-gay comments to GQ magazine. Many supporters of the page, which attracted more than 25,000 likes as of Friday afternoon, say they are tired of feeling muzzled by a progressive movement they say has become increasingly hostile toward anyone who voices support for a “biblical” view of marriage.
“This is a great day in America,” one user posted on the event page. “In case you live in a monastery, my man Phil Robertson was fired by the politically correct gay-agenda mob.”
“My wife and I are going, too!” another commenter added. “We have to drive 90 to Milwaukee metro area to take part … We don’t like sodomy or sexual perversion!”
But like anything else on Facebook, the page is not without its detractors. Numerous hecklers descended on the page Friday, making snarky comments about the event and using it as an opportunity to call out what they see as overt bigotry toward gays.
“Don’t forget to bring the kids, and teach them that the only way to fight for your rights is to super-size your combo,” one person quipped.
“Wait, this is all in support of free speech, yet my post got removed?” another one complained. “That’s gay as hell!”
Countless flippant Facebook users stopped by the event page to post various types of homosexual imagery, as well as photos of fairies, phallic-shaped sea creatures, animals having intercourse, and yes, several memes featuring “gay Jesus.”
Some Robertson fans shot back at the critics, calling them the “gaystapo” and “lib trolls” who have nothing better to do with their time. “I guess when you don’t have a job and just collect welfare, you have a lot of time on your hands,” one Robertson fan wrote.
Amid all the venomous back-and-forth name-calling, at least one Facebooker tried to spread a message of positivity, copying and pasting the following comment under the names of numerous listed attendees:
“If you’re for tolerance, kindness, and the freedom to do whatever you’d like in this great country, then you shouldn’t be supporting a company that gives MILLIONS to stop equality, even if it’s equality you don’t particularly agree with.”
National Chick-Phil-A Day is planned for January 21.