The fallout from A&E's controversial decision to suspend "Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson continued Thursday, as thousands of the Duck Commander creator's fans signed a new petition slamming the network and demanding that it lift the suspension immediately.
The cable network announced that Robertson would be suspended from its hit reality TV show on Wednesday after anti-gay remarks that he made in an interview with GQ were published in a story on the magazine's website.
But thousands of "Duck Dynasty" fans are not happy with A&E's decision, as a brand-new website called IStandWithPhil.com has been created to host a petition demanding Robertson be reinstated immediately.
The petition already had nearly 10,000 backers by 12:30 p.m. Thursday, and it appeared to be gaining in popularity as it spread like wildfire across social media sites including Twitter and Facebook.
The petition, which was addressed to "A&E Network," includes a lengthy letter outlining its backers' grievances with the network for pulling Robertson, 67, from the reality TV show about the hunting enthusiast's business and family, slamming it for its "intolerant, discriminatory and punitive treatment of Mr. Phil Robertson." Here is a sample of what it says:
"Mr. Robertson’s comments in GQ Magazine are simply reflective of a Biblical view of sexuality, marriage and family – a view that has stood the test of time for thousands of years and continues to be held by the majority of Americans and today’s world as a whole. Many members of the LGBT community may not agree with this view, but the notion that a free-thinking American should be discriminated against simply for expressing a perspective that is in conflict with another is patently un-American and flies in the face of true tolerance and civility."
The letter, which is spreading online via the #IStandWithPhil hashtag, goes on to demand the star's immediate return to "Duck Dynasty," one of TV's most popular programs:
"I am asking your network to immediately reinstate Mr. Robertson to 'Duck Dynasty,' and to formally apologize to him, his family, and the millions of viewers who tune in every week, stand by him, and share his worldview. While the LGBT community may be offended by his opposing viewpoint, your rash, discriminatory and unfair treatment toward Mr. Robertson — a recognized symbol of the faith community — is a slap in the face to Faith-Driven Consumers and everyday Americans alike."
The comments in question concerned Robertson's beliefs surrounding homosexuality:
"Don't be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers -- they won’t inherit the kingdom of God," he is quoted as saying during the GQ interview. "Don't deceive yourself. It's not right."
He then went on to offer comments criticizing homosexuality as sin, and detailed his struggle understanding why anyone is gay:
"It seems to me, a vagina -- as a man -- would be more desirable than a man's anus," he explained. "That's just me. I'm just thinking, 'There's more there! She's got more to offer.' I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It's not logical, my man. It's just not logical."
Prior to his suspension, Robertson's comments were criticized by gay rights organizations, including GLAAD. A spokesman for the group, Wilson Cruz, offered the following critique: "Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil's lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe ... Phil's decision to push vile and extreme stereotypes is a stain on A&E and his sponsors, who now need to reexamine their ties to someone with such public disdain for LGBT people and families."
The criticism by GLAAD and other groups may have led to Robertson's suspension, but Twitter users who have organized under the #IStandWithPhil and #IStandWithPhil hashtags and begun to follow the official @IStandWithPhil Twitter account are fighting back online against their positions.
And Christians are getting in on the action as well, as @LaurenDeMoss tweeted the following response to the controversy over Robertson's suspension: "I can't turn on the TV without being offended with sin. Why do gay people think no one can offend them? God says It's sin. #IStandWithPhil"
Many Twitter users, including @sirenidica, have gone so far as to call for a full-on boycott of A&E and its sponsors: "Here's a list of .@AETV sponsors for anyone interested in 'buycotting' against another lib tantrum. #IStandWithPhil"
As of 12:30 p.m. Thursday, A&E's official Twitter feed was silent on the topic of Robertson's remarks and his suspension.