Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
In the latest outcropping of the Republican-driven "culture war" narrative, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has joined conservatives rushing to defend Phil Robertson, the star of television's "Duck Dynasty," who was suspended this week for making hateful remarks about LGBT people.
"Free speech is an endangered species," Palin wrote on her Facebook page, below a photo of her standing next to the "Duck Dynasty" star. "Those 'intolerants' hatin' and taking on the Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing his personal opinion are taking on all of us."
Robertson was quoted in GQ's January 2014 edition saying that same-sex relations are "not logical" and "sinful."
"It seems like, to me, a vagina -- as a man -- would be more desirable than a man's anus," he said. "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."
Robertson added that in his view, sin begins at "homosexual behavior," then "just morph[s] out from there. Beastiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men." He continued: "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. Don't deceive yourself. It's not right."
The comments drew a swift rebuke from pro-LGBT groups like GLAAD, which called Robertson's statements "some of the vilest and most extreme statements uttered against LGBT people in a mainstream publication." A&E was also quick to distance itself from Robertson's anti-gay views. "We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson's comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty," they said in a statement. "The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely."
However, Palin joined Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and a host of conservative commentators in rushing to his defense, staking out the popular TV show as their latest cultural battleground in the ongoing pushback against LGBT rights. "I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment," Jindal said on his official website. "It is a messed up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended "
For Palin, her defense of Robertson's comments belittling LGBT people is particularly odd considering her reaction to MSNBC host Martin Bashir just last month. Bashir apologized and resigned his post after a particularly terse commentary in which he called Palin an "idiot" and a "dunce" and suggested she be fed human excrement -- a punishment endured by many 18th century slaves -- due to her continual misrepresentation of slavery in speeches to tea party Republicans.
In an interview with her employer, Fox News, Palin lamented that MSNBC appeared to have condoned Bashir's remarks by not immediately forcing his resignation. "That's hypocrisy," she said. "That's a given though, when a conservative woman says something that they're, they take offense. They just usually pooh-pooh it, laugh it off, no big deal... I don't have to accept his words, his vile, evil comments, so they don't have to affect me."
Palin added that if the media elite ever attack someone who does not have a platform like hers, like "a vulnerable child," she would rear up like "a mama grizzly" in their defense and "slap that person down."
Instead, Palin reared up in defense of "Duck Dynasty," which has a much, much larger platform than Palin or any show on Fox News, with a Christmas episode that drew over 9 million viewers this year, according to Variety. By comparison, Nielsen ratings data released this month showed that Fox News averaged about 1.7 million viewers in primetime during 2013, a decline of 13 percent from 2012.