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'Duck Dynasty' Star Suspended

Aired December 19, 2013 - 18:28   ET



ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, is political correctness out of control? A star of "Duck Dynasty" talks about race, gays and what he reads in the Bible and gets suspended. It started a political brawl.

On the left, Van Jones. On the right, Newt Gingrich. In the CROSSFIRE, L.Z. Granderson, who's for the suspension, and Penny Young- Nance, who's against it. Where do we draw the line between bigotry and belief? Tonight on CROSSFIRE.


VAN JONES, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I'm Van Jones on the left.

NEWT GINGRICH, CO-HOST: I'm Newt Gingrich on the right. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, guests with opposite views on whether the A&E network should have suspended "Duck Dynasty" patriarch Phil Robertson for paraphrasing a passage in the Bible.

Suspending Robertson, frankly, is a stupid decision. It is truly ironic that the week before Christmas, the head of a Christian family has been suspended for talking about his Christian faith.

A&E was content to make millions of dollars as long as viewers were tuning in to watch tamed reality television, but this is true reality. Robertson is who he is.

My first advice here in the country is: take a deep breath. It's Christmas. Be charitable. Try to break out of this cycle of running around trying out who's going to offend us next.

JONES: Well, you know, Newt, I think we're going to probably disagree on this a little bit, because you know, it's a -- it is Christmas. And to me, this guy looks like Santa Claus, but he was leaving a lot of coal for a lot of people in our country.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight, you've got L.Z. Granderson. He is a CNN commentator. We also have Penny Young-Nance. She's the president and CEO of Concerned Women for America.

Now Penny, this has blown up. It's become a huge story here, all around the world. Before we go any further, I want to make sure that people back home know the kinds of comments that we're talking about here. If we can put them up. This guy says, "It seems to me" -- and I apologize for anyone at home gets offended -- "that a vagina as a man would be more desirable than a man's anus. 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."

Now, listen, can we at least stipulate that a private corporation, a private media company -- this is not the government saying this -- that says, "I just don't want to be associated with those comments," at least has the right to say, "This is not the kind of comments I want to be associated with" as a private media company?

PENNY YOUNG-NANCE, PRESIDENT/CEO, CONCERNED WOMEN FOR AMERICA: First, I need to apologize to my parents who are watching, but anyway, there was a lot -- there were several things, actually, that made me uncomfortable in what he said. And you know, I wasn't particularly thrilled with what you just mentioned.

But newsflash, he's not polished. And we like that about him. And he's an entertainer.

And so yes, I actually do agree with you. I think that they -- A&E has every right to contract with who they choose to contract with. They have 11.8 million viewers. I'm thinking they're not going away.

But the bottom line is we live in a society where we can't shut down debate just because we don't want to hear it. We need to be able to have a discussion, and I think a civil discourse, about what we believe on these matters of faith. There are deep issues that demand an answer in this country.

And the issue of marriage, the issue of sin is a difficult one. The issue of life. We all talk about all sorts of very difficult issues at Concerned Women for America, and we're not going to shut up just because people don't want to hear it.

JONES: Well, we'll get into them. I just feel like I've been hearing people saying the First Amendment is being destroyed. This is not the government doing this.

YOUNG-NANCE: Can I just...

JONES: This is a private -- decision that's being made by a private corporation.

YOUNG-NANCE: ... make one point? We have...

JONES: They have the right to do it.

YOUNG-NANCE: In this particular case, I do think they have the right to do it, but we have private businesses whose First Amendment, free expression of religious rights are being squelched every day in this country.

In New Mexico you have Elane's Photographers, who was shut down because the Supreme Court said that she had -- she had to take pictures of gay marriages. You have bakeries; you have printers. So look, if you're going to say you have a right to contract with who you choose, it needs to work both ways. It needs to work for these businesses.

JONES: I'm sure we'll get around to that.

Like me just say, my point earlier wasn't that it was illegal, but it was stupid. I mean, and as a -- in the modern world, we have all sorts of different groups who have strong opinions. You have lots of people out here who feel deeply about a variety of issues.

But isn't there some space in civil society for a Christian who is quoting the Bible? And the fact is, while he's clumsy and crude in some ways, he's essentially paraphrasing Corinthians. And the section -- and he's doing it, by the way, in response to a very specific question. A reporter says to him, how do you think about sin? How do you define sin? And he basically takes St. Paul and he doesn't do it as well as St. Paul.

But -- but doesn't he have the right...

JONES: Understatement, but go ahead.

GINGRICH: No, but -- but shouldn't people -- isn't there something wrong with punishing somebody for paraphrasing the Bible?

L.Z. GRANDERSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it depends, right? I mean, we don't know what the stipulation of his contracts are. We do know that, typically speaking, and I worked with two media companies, CNN as well as ESPN, in both of my contracts, it lets me know, if I say something stupid, I could by fired, at the very least suspended.

As a matter of fact, ESPN just made news, because last week the reporters were sent out another reminder that if you say something ill-mannered towards what happened with the Jameis Winston verdict, you can get in trouble.

You can't tell me that this man, who you keep calling unpolished, but let's not forget, he has a master's degree in education. This isn't some idiot out of the backwoods, as you're trying to characterize him, or as sometimes he characterizes himself. He has a master's degree. He's been around. He's a really smart man. He probably knew that this would brew up controversy. He was aware of the fact that it's controversial, it would probably bring more attention to his show. And he's probably playing all of us right now. He's not an idiot.

YOUNG-NANCE: He maybe is a marketing genius, and great if he is, but you know, can we just take a second there and recognize the verse? He was quoting First Corinthians.

GRANDERSON: OK. You know what?

YOUNG-NANCE: Hang on, hang on. And let me just say. You don't know what I'm going to say, and you're going to be surprised. GRANDERSON: OK.

YOUNG-NANCE: There is something in that verse to offend all of us. It talks about adultery. It talks about greed. It talks about fasts. It talks about sex outside of marriage.

JONES: What do you think about that?

YOUNG-NANCE: And so there's a whole group of people who believe that homosexuality is a sin, along with, by the way, all these other behaviors. And we have to be able to...

JONES: After you.

GRANDERSON: Here's the thing, right? The Bible has been used throughout history as a way to oppress the minority. Whatever the majority is, they've always found the right verse to justify slavery, to justify keeping women -- in fact, as a matter of fact, there's a couple verses that should have you home right now, verses that would have me, you know, not being in the household that I'm in and not celebrating New Mexico's become the 17th state to have marriage equality.

So whatever the majority is, whoever is in power can use the Bible to justify their positioning. What offends me is that I'm a Christian, OK? I believe Jesus Christ is my lord and savior, and I'm openly gay. And I don't have a personal conflict with either one of those positionings, and I'm sick and tired of pseudo-Christians using the Bible to justify being homophobic. Don't say this is Christianity. Say these are your beliefs.

YOUNG-NANCE: Well, it's...

GINGRICH: Wait a second. OK, say they're your beliefs. Here is an American citizen expressing his beliefs. And all of a sudden, he's going to be suspended because he expressed his beliefs?

GRANDERSON: Because his contract probably says, "You're not supposed to say things like X, Y and Z." That probably goes against our H.R. policies.


GRANDERSON: That's what he signed. That's what he agreed to.

YOUNG-NANCE: Can we, though, not be fair to the fact that people that truly believe the whole text of the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament; Orthodox Jews, who believe their Old Testament; some Muslims; even the Dalai Lama, who believe that certain behaviors -- by the way, there's a whole big list there, and I break many of them. I'm the chief of sinners.

JONES: But Penny, let me...

YOUNG-NANCE: Hang on. Hang on, Van. Can we not agree that it is -- it is absolutely different believing in your faith and believing your sacred text, and having a hatred and a bigotry towards people? And I agree with you. People have...

JONES: That may well be, but I do want to ask this question. Because I -- I am also -- I was raised in the church. My grandfather was a bishop in our church. I'm raising my children to be kids of faith in California, which is sometimes controversial. And I just want -- I just want...

YOUNG-NANCE: What, the faith part in California. Yes, right.


YOUNG-NANCE: Not the other part.

JONES: Listen, I think we have a lot in common.


JONES: But I want to say this, and I want to say it even more forcefully.


JONES: If I were to point to the Bible and say -- to point to the parts of the Bible that justify slavery, and I went on an interview and I said, "I believe that black people should be enslaved because of the Bible," I would have my contract canceled. If I said that women should be subordinated; they should be under the boot heel of a man; they should never be at this workplace, I would lose my contract.

Why is it -- we are now in a position where there are things in the Bible that are no longer going to be acceptable in the middle of the public square? Why -- why is that going to be considered an attack on Christianity as opposed to standing up for decency and respect for all Americans?

YOUNG-NANCE: Well, first off, no one is arguing that they don't have the right to cancel contracts. And again, businesses can do as they choose. So what I'm saying...

GRANDERSON: You agree with the contention?

YOUNG-NANCE: No, I don't think that they should suspend him, because I think he was expressing his beliefs, and I don't think they will, eventually. In fact, they're doing a whole marathon, because -- because it is a product that people want.

And A&E -- TLC says, "Please suspend him. We'd like to have him." And I would like to think he's a marketing genius. I don't know. Maybe I should call him for some help for us if that's the case. That was pretty thoughtful. I don't think he did it on purpose.

Because you know why I don't think he did it on purpose? Because nobody wants to be called a bigot and hateful. By the way -- by the way... GRANDERSON: There's a whole industry based upon this.

YOUNG-NANCE: Well, maybe so, but in most people...

JONES: The whole station...

YOUNG-NANCE: Honestly, most people, it is painful to point out things that hurt people's feelings. It's painful for me to talk about even the issue of divorce and cohabitation, out-of-wedlock birth, because it hurts people's feelings.

But if we're going to point to what we think the Bible says or what is actually best for society, sometimes we have to say stuff that's not popular.

GINGRICH: And by the way, ironically, if you read the whole interview and not just one section, he talks very specifically about loving everybody, talks specifically by not being judgmental towards anyone, that that's God's decision, not his.

I mean, it is a remarkable -- there's sections there where he sounds a lot like Pope Francis in a totally different framework.

GRANDERSON: There's nothing remarkable about slandering people and then coming around and saying, "Love everybody." I mean, people have been doing that time and time again. Love the sinner but, you know, hate the sin. I mean, there's nothing remarkable about that.

GINGRICH: But you two want to claim the right that you get to edit the Bible so that the parts you approve of...

GRANDERSON: No, no, no, no, no.

GINGRICH: ... are all that are allowed to be talked about.

GRANDERSON: Actually what we're pointing out is the hypocrisy that you right always want to edit the Bible to justify the positioning on things.

YOUNG-NANCE: No, they don't.

GRANDERSON: All the time.

YOUNG-NANCE: I'm accepting the whole text.

JONES: You're for slavery, and you're going to -- you're going to appoint...

YOUNG-NANCE: First off, I completely disagree with this that the Bible in any way justifies slavery.

JONES: Hey, listen...

YOUNG-NANCE: And I think it comments on...

JONES: I can't wait until after this commercial break. Now, listen, this controversy over "Duck Dynasty" is a part of a much bigger conversation, also a part of a bigger change going on in the country.

Next, as a southerner, who grew up in the church, I'll tell you the advice I would give to the folks on "Duck Dynasty," when we get back.


JONES: Welcome back. In the CROSSFIRE tonight we've got L.Z. Granderson and Penny Young-Nance.

We are debating whether A&E was right to suspend "Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson over his offensive comments about gays.

Now look, I grew up in rural West Tennessee, the Bible Belt, and then I moved to the Bay Area in San Francisco. And I had to learn how to talk to folks with whom I had almost nothing in common: Samoans, lesbians, politicians, you know? And that's what I learned, that there were more ways to come across badly than I had ever imagined. So I had to up my skills.

Now luckily, personally, I have some experience with this. All black kids have to learn how to talk in mixed company without giving offense. You don't figure that out, you fail.

Now we're all in the same boat. We're all becoming a part of this multiracial, multicultural country. Watching Phil Robertson reminds me that all of us now need to up our skills.

So I want to talk with you about this part of it. Like I just think -- now whatever you think about the content of what he said, his reasoning behind what he said, don't you think that some of this stuff is just in poor taste, poor tone?

Listen to this. He says -- he talked about loving everybody, which we just pointed out. He says, we love 'em, give them the good news about Jesus, whether they're homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. Let God sort them out later."

JONES: Don't you think, if you're a gay or lesbian American, being lumped in with drunks and terrorists, is at least a bit offensive?

YOUNG-NANCE: Well, so again, we just talked about the fact that his view of the bible and Christianity unfortunately I know it offends you. It offends you to believe for him to say that homosexual is a sin. By the way, he also said that sleeping around was a sin, all these other things. Yes, he lumped it in. And he was indelicate in his terms.

JONES: Do you think that -- let's just be honest we're. We're in a country that's becoming more and more multi-faith, multicultural. Do you think that it makes good sense for people who are Christians --

YOUNG-NANCE: Is it marketing? Is it good marketing? JONES: No, do you think it's fair and makes good sense to tell a lesbian couple that's raising a family that's watching right now, that they should be on the same list bestiality and terrorists? You think that's right? You agree with that?

YOUNG-NANCE: I would not say it like that, but I would say that we are broken sinners, and I would say that we all have sins in our lives, and it's OK to say that. Like he can't -- every time you use the term, you know, bigoted and -- it's designed to shut down the debate. We've got to have the debate.

L.Z. GRANDERSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Let me get this straight. So, on the one hand, when you want to quote the bible, it's OK to say things to make people upset, but when other person you're bigoted --

YOUNG-NANCE: I think the bible makes people upset.

GRANDERSON: Don't say that word, it makes people upset. I don't understand the --

YOUNG-NANCE: It's not --


NEWT GINGRICH, CO-HOST: Are you willing for him to say it back? I mean, here's the point. You know, my wife Callista has written three children's books about American history.

You look back at the very beginning and you realize, why did the pilgrims come here? Because they didn't have the right to say what they believed. Why did the Quakers come here? They didn't have the right. Why was Maryland the first Catholic colony? Because they didn't have the right.

Now, you've got a guy who's making a lot of money being who he really is, he does an interview in a magazine where he's asked how do you define sin? In his own way, he describes it. And now, we want to say, boy, we want to punish you.

GRANDERSON: That is very, very different. William Penn being persecuted for his religious expression --

JONES: By the government.

GRANDERSON: -- by the government versus a private company making its own policies.

JONES: But you're happy if he's persecuted and loses millions because you're offended?

GRANDERSON: First of all, personally I wasn't offended, because I wasn't paying attention to him. I didn't pay attention -- truth be told, I didn't write about this, I didn't pay attention piece under Governor Jindal wrote a piece says this infringed upon his First Amendment right, which it's not.


YOUNG-NANCE: You don't think the government infringes on people's freedom right now based on this issue? You don't believe that the printers and florists who are going out of the business and the sweet cakes bakeries --

JONES: You know more about that than I do. But let me ask you a question, because we re talking about you know more about that than I do.

But here's what I do not understand. Ordinary, when we have good conservatives on like yourself, they love the free market. They love private corporations. They believe in them. They believe -- it's almost like a theology unto itself.

Here we have a private corporation making a business decision that it doesn't want to be associated with a private individual and now, suddenly, the First Amendment?

YOUNG-NANCE: Van, I'm not arguing they don't have the right. I have not one time said they don't have a right. I said it was stupid business.

GRANDERSON: But you agree with the suspension?

YOUNG-NANCE: No. I think --

GRANDERSON: How do you not agree --


YOUNG-NANCE: Hang on. I said they can. I don't think that they should and I don't think that they will.

GRANDERSON: But they already have.

YOUNG-NANCE: They'll bring him back, sweetheart. He'll be back.

GINGRICH: Let me -- L.Z., let me, I hosted a show with Fred Friendly, who'd been Edward R. Murrow's producer. And one of Fred's favorite lines was -- because you have the right to do something doesn't mean it's the right thing to do.

I want to share with you how A&E explained themselves. They said, "His personal views in no way reflect those of A&E network, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community."

Now, here's my question -- can you imagine how you would have reacted if they came back and said we are strongly supporting Phil, because we have always been strong supporters of Christians?

GRANDERSON: I'm a Christian. What would I say about it? I'd be like OK.

GINGRICH: No, but you can't imagine in modern news corporation saying they're strong supporters of Christianity, because, in fact, in the modern secular culture, that would be a shocking moment for A&E to say, you know, we think Christianity deserves to be spoken and if that offends some people, that's fine, because after all religions often --

GRANDERSON: Do you know why you feel that way has very little to do with, quote/unquote, "the secular world", and more to do with the way a lot of Christians tend to be hypocrites and abuse what it means to be Christian. That's the reason you think that way.

At the same time, there are a lot of non-secular people who still supports organizations --

GINGRICH: Wait, how do you know how I think?

GRANDERSON: Because I've been reading and watching you for decades, Newt.


GINGRICH: OK. So you know how I think, OK. So, you think that's how Pope Francis thinks. OK? You think when Pope Francis takes a very similar position --

GRANDERSON: He's new to the public sector, I'm saying you are. You have --

GINGRICH: No. Pope Francis -- but his statements that we should love each other, but also he has sustained the doctrine of the church, now, does that make him whatever the psychological thing is that you're talking about? I don't get that.

JONES: Well, speaking of psychological stuff --


JONES: I actually am curious about how far you would go in defending inflammatory speech as long as it is cloaked with religious defenses. For instance, Louis Farrakhan says inflammatory things in the minds of a lot of Americans. If he had a corporate contract --

YOUNG-NANCE: You know more about that than I do.

JONES: OK, fair enough.


JONES: OK, how about Reverend Wright? You may have --

YOUNG-NANCE: Look at Martin Bashir.

JONES: Let's stay with religion.


JONES: Let's stay with religion. You have Reverend Wright who has said things that people found inflammatory. You have Louis Farrakhan. If they had contracts with shows and corporations and they said, you know what, now that we've heard your views, even though they're religious, we reject them. Would you be here defending Louis Farrakhan?

YOUNG-NANCE: Look, what I just said was, there's religious freedom. And I said that you have the right to contracts and to nullify contracts in private business. But I do need to say something about Martin Bashir and where we draw the line. He specifically advocated violence against Sarah Palin, and I think that's an important differentiation to make. And I think MSNBC acted properly, finally.

GINGRICH: Let me say -- please stay here. Next, the final question for both of our guests.

We also want you at home to weigh in on today's "Fireback" question. Was it right for A&E to suspend "Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson over his comments? Tweet yes or no using #crossfire.

We'll have the results after the break.


GINGRICH: We're back with L.Z. Granderson and Penny Young Nance.

Now, it's time for the final question.

And, L.Z., we talk a lot about sensitivity, concern for others. As a Republican, I found the president's new counselor, Mr. Podesta, the following quote unbelievable. Let's have your reaction.

He said, quote, "They need to focus on executive action given that they are facing a second term against a cult worthy of Jonestown in charge of one of the houses of Congress."

Now, in terms of American governing with civility, doesn't Podesta almost eliminate himself from the White House by comparing House Republicans to a Jonestown cult that committed mass suicide and killed a congressman?

GRANDERSON: I am always appalled when Republicans and Democrats -- I'm an independent. Let's get that out there.

When Republicans and Democrats alike are doing these ridiculous comparisons between tragedies and modern day politics -- stop dragging in the Holocaust, stop dragging in Nazis, stop dragging in Jonestown. Let's talk about what's happening in modern day politics.

It is ridiculous.

GINGRICH: I think that's pretty good (ph) --

JONES: He is consistent.

First of all, I want to thank both L.Z. Granderson and Penny Young Nance for being here.

You can go to Facebook or Twitter to weigh in on our "Fireback" question. Was it right for A&E to suspend "Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson over his comments? Right, 28 percent of you say yes, 72 percent say no. The debate continues online at, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

And I want you to be sure, tomorrow, to join CROSSFIRE host S.E. Cupp at 9:00 Eastern. She's going to be guest hosting CNN's "PIERS MORGAN LIVE". She's going to be interviewing my good friend Glenn Beck. Among other things, they're going to talk about who he might support in 2016. Here's a preview.


GLENN BECK, RADIO HOST: I'm done playing the game of, well, that means if we don't vote for that guy, we're going to get this guy. We played that with John McCain. We played that with --

S.E. CUPP, CNN HOST: So, who do you want? Who would you like for 2016, if you could anoint someone today?

BECK: Oh, I don't know because I don't trust any of them.


GINGRICH: Yes. I just want to say, S.E. is a great interviewer.


GINGRICH: And I know this is something she was really looking forward to doing and I don't know anybody recently who has had Glenn Beck for an entire hour. So I think it's gong to be a fun evening.

JONES: A huge get for her. It's going to be a -- I think a big ratings winner and I want to you watch the entire interview with Glenn Beck tomorrow at 9:00 Eastern on "PIERS MORGAN LIVE".

From the left, I'm Van Jones.

GINGRICH: From the right, I'm Newt Gingrich.

Join us tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.