Here’s What Really Happened to Duck Dynasty
The bigger they are, the harder they fall. Before it was cancelled, A&E’s Duck Dynasty was one of the most popular reality shows on television. It featured Louisiana’s Robertson clan and ran from 2012 to 2017. Known for their long beards, love of hunting and conservative Christian values, the family became unexpected celebrities. At one point 12 million viewers tuned into the show, making it the most watched nonfiction program in cable history. As with a lot of reality television, and fame in general, when regular people are thrust into the spotlight, anything can happen. Especially when you throw millions of dollars at them, which just further complicates matters.
The final piece of this puzzle, regarding the Robertsons specifically, is the fact that some of their views and beliefs seriously challenged the status quo. Behind the scenes drama, off-camera controversy and a steady drop in ratings eventually ended the show. This article will explore all of the scandals, from Phil’s seemingly endless series of outrageous comments to multiple revelations from family members’ tell-all books and interviews. Make sure to stick around to the end to see some unbelievable connections between Duck Dynasty, pop culture, and even politics. But first, let’s get to know the Robertsons…
Before their hit show, the family ran a very successful duck call business called Duck Commander, which is still active today. The name represents both the company and the product. They also sell other duck hunting merchandise, as well as deer hunting products and merchandise under the Buck Commander brand. In 2012 alone, The Robertsons made an incredible $40 million in revenue, and that was before the show, which surely added to the already impressive sales.
Phil Robertson, the head of the family, definitely didn’t just get lucky with Duck Commander. He has both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education. The origin story of the business is a common one. As a duck hunter himself, he wasn’t happy with all of the duck calls on the market, so he decided to use his knowledge and business acumen to make his own. He invented the first product in 1972, got a patent and established the company the next year. His son Willie Robertson now runs the million dollar business, but their lives weren’t as easy before…
Before the Dynasty
The Robertsons lived in poverty for a long time prior to Phil’s invention. They have certainly gone from one end of the spectrum to the other. In 1946, Phil was born in Louisiana along with six brothers and sisters in a home without any electricity, a bathtub or even a toilet. But they didn’t suffer as much as others might have given those circumstances. They turned to gardening and farming their own fruit and vegetables, as well as hunting and raising animals on and off of their property.
Despite their struggles, they lived a happy life. These humble beginning instilled Phil was qualities that would play a role in his accomplishments later in life. As a young man, Phil played football and almost went pro with the Washington Redskins. He ultimately decided against it because it would take him away from hunting, his favorite thing in the world. A smart decision considering how profitable Duck Commander eventually became. As previously mentioned, Duck Commander was successful well before the show, but since then, it has generated $400 million from merchandising alone.
Now that we have some background on the family and the show, it’s time to look at all of the behind the scenes scandals that ultimately led to Duck Dynasty’s demise. Phil was often quoted and discussed in the news and tabloids for controversial remarks regarding politics, race and gay marriage, which he spoke out against in a 2013 interview with GQ. Following public outrage, he was suspended by A&E but eventually allowed back on the show.
On Good Morning America, one year after the controversy around his aforementioned comments, Phil tried to make things right. Unfortunately, he did this by comparing himself to Jesus. Yikes. He said his opinions are simply connected to his religious beliefs, and that he ultimately wants to unify the human race. His comments before and after the mea culpa definitely failed, and only seemed to get worse…
Soon after one controversy ends, another begins. Following the GMA interview, an old video surfaced showing Phil discussing child marriage. Not just talking about it, but supporting and promoting it. He believes girls should be married around 14 or 15 years old, and rationalized this by referencing his relationship with his wife, which started when she was that age. His logic is flawed, and doesn’t stop there…
Hollywood was rocked in 2017 with revelations about Harvey Weinstein and a slew of other actors and producers who had committed acts of sexual misconduct. Phil went on EWTN, a catholic news network, to share his thoughts. He feels that the AIDS crisis is direct evidence of God’s anger with the movie industry. He concluded by saying that the men could be forgiven if they turn to Christ.
A few years before his comments about Hollywood, he distracted everyone from his homophobia by highlighting his racism. He believes that African Americans were much better off during the Jim Crow era, which enforced racial segregation and took place for decades from the late 1880s to the 1960s. Organizations like the NAACP were obviously unhappy with these comments and spoke out against him.
While this article is focusing on all of the negative statements made by Phil, he also has a lighthearted side. There has even been a term coined to categorize all of Phil’s ideas and opinions. The Internet has websites and fan pages dedicated to all of his PHILosophies. The cancellation of the show certainly hasn’t stopped his thoughts and words from living on.
At one point, Phil claimed the producers asked him not to say Jesus, and accused the editors of adding censor beeps to make it look like they were swearing when they weren’t. His behind the scenes drama wasn’t helped by his outspoken political positions. In 2013, Phil helped congressional candidate Vance McAllister win the election by endorsing him in a commercial. He also supported Ted Cruz for President. But Phil isn’t the only one to get political…
The Robertsons definitely support the troops. They have traveled to military bases to speak and do meet-and-greets. At one point the USO even partnered up with the show to donate 400 prom dresses to military teens. As nice as their support is, of course it has to be met with more controversy and at one point even threatened someone’s job…
“I Support Phil”
While this wasn’t directly related to one of their on-site visits, it does involve someone in the armed forces. The drama started when a civil service worker at an Air Force Base in Florida supported Phil following more of his controversial statements. A union that was representing other federal employees was not happy about the very public position the employee took, which actually violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Many of the scandals discussed in this article so far took place outside of the actual show, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t also drama while the cameras were rolling. While reality shows are often scripted, Duck Dynasty took it to a new level when the producers sent out a casting email looking for four men with long beards to stand in for the actors on the show. This is about as far from reality as possible.
Odd Son Out
Not everyone in the family was thrilled to be famous. Jase and Missy Robertson’s 18 year old son Reed really struggled with his new found fame and even thought about committing suicide. He ended up pushing through his troubles, getting engaged and married to the love of his life and has sense become a successful musician.
Other family members like being famous too much. Most of the Robertsons stayed true to their simple, relatable roots and didn’t really change after the show blew up, but not all of them. Willie Robertson apparently became so obsessed with money and the limelight it actually caused a rift in the family, and in his personal life, as well…
Willie and Korie
After the success of the show Willie and his wife Korie relocated to California, but this wasn’t easy for them. Despite the previous entry, it was actually Korie who wanted to move and open her own store in Los Angeles. Their daughter Sadie, who is discussed later, was also interested in breaking into the entertainment industry. Despite their marriage suffering, the family prayed for them to make it through.
Jep and Jessica
Willie and Korie weren’t the only couple on the show to have issues. Jep and Jessica Robertson released a book in 2015 called The Good, the Bad, and the Grace of God: What Honesty and Pain Taught Us About Faith, Family, and Forgiveness. The book revealed many shocking things including Jessica’s previous marriage, which she kept from her kids. But that’s not all…
Jessica also revealed that she had struggled with an eating disorder. It happened during her first marriage, which was an incredibly stressful time in her life, and even continued into the beginning of her relationship with Jep. She struggled with intense dieting and exercise that she says she was able to move beyond thanks to prayer and family.
Jep also shared some shocking revelations. He talked about being molested in elementary school. The abuser was actually an older girl who used to sit next to him on the bus. This is where the the assault happened, and he said it made him not want to go to school. He was also able to overcome this later in life. But there’s more…
In between his sexual assault struggles in elementary and the success of his marriage and Duck Dynasty, Jep had a history of drug abuse. The family was always very involved with the church, but that didn’t stop him from experimenting to the point of regularly blacking out. But like his wife, he grew beyond his past struggles.
Jep and Jessica weren’t the only ones to publish a book full of scandals. Alan and Lisa Robertson released A New Season: A Robertson Family Love Story of Brokenness and Redemption in 2015. In it, Lisa admitted to being molested as a young girl and even having an abortion as a teen. Al also included some revelations…
The Other Brother
Alan Robertson, a preacher who is the oldest of the brothers, was pretty wild as a young man. Like Jep, he also struggled with drinking and drugs. He grew up hunting, fishing and helping build the family business. He eventually left the company to serve as a minister.
Back to the show, which was often overshadowed by all of the outside drama. While the family certainly supplied many of the scandals, they weren’t the only ones. Two of the producers, Deirdre and Scott Gurney, were allegedly involved in some very shady criminal behavior which led to them being fired by their own production company.
Following all of Phil’s controversial comments, he decided to double down and attack an activist organization. It makes sense that the famous duck hunter would have a problem with a group who does their best to protect animals. But PETA didn’t take kindly to his insults. They insisted A&E cancel the show, and that’s not all…
Throughout the feud, PETA even asked Christians to stand against Phil and the family, who they referred to as “duck slayers.” This is a pretty bold move considering the Robertsons’ association with religion. And their position wasn’t just challenging Phil’s love of hunting, but also his anti-gay statements.
All of these scandals and issues culminated in a tarnished public image and too much drama for the network to handle. In the show’s sixth season the ratings dropped significantly, except for the big wedding episode. By season 10, ratings were at an all time low and then the unavoidable happened…
As successful as the show was, and while they still had over a million viewers and dedicated fans, all good things must come to an end. By then, the cast was exploring other options. Willie campaigned for Donald Trump, which is discussed further at the end of this article. Uncle Si also starred in his own A&E spinoff show called the Going Si-Ral.
It’s rare for a show to last as long as Duck Dynasty, especially considering all the controversies. Being on television became a big part of their lives, for better or worse. But with the end of the show, the family was able to move on and shed their skin, more appropriately, cut their hair…
The hair and beard isn’t as much a fashion choice as a practical one. They sport the look for duck hunting season as a form of camouflage. This became such a big part of their image on the show it was even in their contracts. But once the show was over, the cast was able to get long overdue haircuts.
Of all the cast members who continued to pursue fame, arguably the most successful has been Willie and Korie’s teenage daughter Sadie. She’s become a pretty big celebrity and social media icon, which is quite a long way from all of the boyfriend drama she dealt with on the show. Read on to see what she’s been up to…
The Acting Bug
Starring on a reality show must’ve given Sadie the acting bug. She got a big role in the film I’m Not Ashamed, a Christian movie about the first victim of the 1999 Columbine school shooting. It’s based on the student’s personal journals and eye witness accounts from that tragic day. She was also in another Christian movie, God’s Not Dead 2: He’s Surely Alive. But that’s not all…
Dancing with the Stars
She’s arguably most well know for her stint on the hit reality competition show Dancing with the Stars. But even this one had its fair share of controversy. Being a teenager from a conservative Christian family, Sadie was lucky to be paired with Mark Ballas, who was super supportive. But she still had to deal with some challenging comments from one of the judges…
During one critique, judge Julianne Hough told Sadie that she needed to “get more down and dirty with her dancing.” Her dad was not happy about this and spoke out against the show to TMZ. However, the comments haven’t been the only problem with Sadie’s involvement with DWTS. There have also been some issues surrounding her wardrobe choices. And it only gets worse…
Sadie publicly spoke out in support of the Duggar family following their own controversy. The Robertsons and the Duggars have a similar track record as conservative Christians in the spotlight, and have always gotten along. But shocking revelations about the patriarch would test that bond…
It was revealed that Josh Duggar had not only cheated on his wife but had apparently molested some young girls when he was a teenager. Sadie had contact with Jana before, during and after this troubling time and even hinted that she might have known about the scandal prior to it being public knowledge.
Since the cancellation of Duck Dynasty, members of the family have done a variety of things. Some went back to life as usual, others had new reality show gigs and wrote scandalous books. But one member stayed in the limelight while avoiding all the drama. Well, as much as she possibly could have considering who she’s connected to…
The woman that Phil used in his aforementioned argument for child marriage was his wife Kay, who married him when she was 16 years old. She goes by “Miss Kay,” a name she used in the title of her very own cookbook, Miss Kay’s Duck Commander Kitchen. Read on to see a few crazy pop culture and political connections…
Harvey Levin, the founder of TMZ, came out in support of the Duck Dynasty clan following some of Phil’s controversial statements. As a gay man, he obviously doesn’t agree with Phil’s position on homosexuality, but he made it known that he supports Phil’s right to free speech. And Harvey Levin isn’t even close to being the most unexpected DD fan…
Willie and Korie were fortunate enough to attend the 2015 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. They were approached out of nowhere by a man who took them to meet with none other than President Obama. He said he was a fan of the show and even watched it on Air Force One. Considering the Robertsons’ political beliefs, this is way more surprising than the final entry in this article…
As previous discussed, the Duck Dynasty clan has not been shy about their political beliefs. Phil backed Trump during the election and Willie even spoke at the Republican National Convention in support of him.