The Unfortunate Scandals that Forced Duck Dynasty Off the Air

If you’re willing to look past the camouflaging beards and the frog-hunting, you might discover that the Robertsons are a lot like any other family in America. And maybe that’s why the show became such a huge hit. The Southern bunch were funny, likable, and wild.

Phil Robertson signing his autograph on a wooden duck / The cast of Duck Dynasty sitting in eggshells / The cast of Duck Dynasty in all camouflage outfits in a camouflage room
Photo by Jerry Markland, Getty Images / Source: Twitter / A&E

For 11 seasons, America got to witness the shenanigans of a family who built an empire on duck hunting. But it didn’t take long until the Robertsons got into some uncomfortable business. From drug abuse to controversial comments about race and sexuality, here’s an inside look into the lives of the Robertson clan.

Almost 12 Million Viewers Tuned In

Phil Robertson’s company became a huge success due to his duck call known as the Duck Commander. But is his duck hunting company really what interested viewers? We doubt that millions of people tuned in just to educate themselves about ducks.

The cast of Duck Dynasty is sitting in the woods in camouflage attire.
Source: A&E

And we’re not exaggerating when we say millions. The show’s fourth season premiere had nearly 12 million viewers tuning in. The show has generated a large sum of money through the years. We’re talking a total of $400 million in revenue.

Obama Was a Fan of the Show

Now here’s an unlikely fan. Apparently, former President Obama spent some of his free time following the Robertsons’ crazy lives. In 2015, Willie Robertson and his wife, Korie, attended the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner and ended up meeting the President himself at his pre-dinner reception.

Korie Robertson and Willie Robertson attend the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner.
Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

“He said he loves the show and watches it on Air Force One,” Willie proudly revealed. Korie was equally elated and added, “I know the Obamas are very particular about what they let their girls watch on TV, so if our show is one they find acceptable, that’s really great!”

They Were Rich Before the Show

The Robertsons were already making a ton of money before their show. In 2012, their company, Duck Commander, raked in around $40 million in revenue. But when A&E hired them to appear in their very own show, they knew they had hit the jackpot.

President and General Manager of A&E Networks and BIO Robert DeBitetto pose with the cast of
Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

Advertisers spent around $180,000 to land their commercials on the show’s time slot. But money isn’t everything. And the Robertsons learned it the hard way. Because things were far from idyllic. And when you let cameras take over your surroundings, things are bound to get messy.

A&E Looked for Bearded Stand-Ins

We all know reality shows are scripted and partially (if not fully) fake. But many devoted fans believed that Duck Dynasty was 100% authentic. Sadly, their bubble burst in 2014, when Radar Online revealed some dubious casting emails from 2012.

Members of Duck Dynasty waving an American flag.
Source: A&E

The email read that A&E were on the hunt for four bearded men to stand in for the Robertson boys. Potential stand-in actors had to send in their physical statistics such as height, weight, and hair color. Hmmm… doesn’t sound too authentic anymore, does it?

Fame Became Too Much for Some Family Members

Not all family members knew how to deal with the sudden fame. Jase and Missy’s son, Reed, was in his teens when the show aired and had a difficult time coping with the intrusive cameras. He even considered calling it quits and removing himself from the show.

Reed and his parents before one of Reed’s football games.
Source: Facebook

Fortunately, things turned around for him. He married his high school sweetheart in 2016. His Instagram account read: “I couldn’t be more excited to marry this amazing woman. My fiancé is a babe in every way.” Rumor has it he’s working on his country music career.

Phil Robertson’s Thoughts on Child Marriage Are Creepy

The father of the show, Phil Robertson, made headlines after some skeletons from his past came back to haunt him. A sketchy video surfaced, showing a careless Phil saying, “Look, you wait ’til they get to be 20 years old, the only picking that’s going to take place is your pocket. You got to marry these girls when they are about 15 or 16. They’ll pick your ducks.”

Phil Robertson of the TV show
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Yup. Apparently, Phil Robertson is pro-child marriage. He rationalized the whole deal by claiming that he started dating Miss Kay when she was only 14. We find his thoughts on child marriage disturbing, to say the least.

Phil Robertson’s Thoughts on Race

In 2013, Phil Robertson spoke up about race, homosexuality, and Jesus. He claimed in an interview with GQ that Black people were treated wonderfully during Jim Crowe. He stated, “I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any Black person. Not once.”

Phil Robertson is sitting in his workshop.
Source: A&E

He then added, “I’m with the Blacks because we’re white trash.” He also threw in some anti-gay comments, explaining that “it’s just not logical… Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.”

A Secret Abortion

In 2015, Alan (the eldest son) and his wife, Lisa, published a memoir titled “A New Season: A Robertson Family Love Story of Brokenness and Redemption. The book revealed a lot of juicy details, including Alan’s substance abuse and Lisa’s unfortunate abortion.

Alan and Lisa walking through a grassy field.

Sadly, Lisa had to terminate a pregnancy at the young age of seventeen. A really traumatic event and a decision she came to regret. But this piece of information didn’t fly so well with the show’s viewers. Aren’t the Robertsons proud Christians? In any case, Lisa wasn’t bothered by the comments. She stated, “You can find healing and comfort from Jesus in it.”

Phil’s Interview Killed the Show

Phil’s interview in 2013 with GQ was a total disaster. Mainly for the people at the network, who were completely embarrassed by his primitive and dark views. Two seasons after their incredible record-setting 12 million viewers, the show’s sixth season plummeted to only 4.6 million.

Phil speaking before a convention holding an old book to help support his backward views.
Source: YouTube 

And by Season 10, the show hit rock bottom of just 1.3 million. Everyone understood by that point that it was time to go. But apart from the decline in rating, the real reason A&E canceled this family was because of Phil’s horrendous interview.

A Phil-Fashioned Sorry

One year after his interview, Phil asked for forgiveness on Good Morning America. We’re not sure how genuine Phil’s apology was, but at least he came forward and did it. He said he was sorry in his weird, twisted way – by comparing himself to Jesus.

Phil Robertson before going on ‘Good Morning America.’
Source: Youtube

“I’m as much of a homophobe as Jesus was. People who are participating in homosexual behavior, they need to know that I love them,” He explained. As for his comments on race? He responded, “There’s one race on this planet. It’s called the human race… We’re all the same. To me, there is absolutely nothing that color has to do with it.”

The Youngest of the Bunch Struggled with Drug Abuse

Jep, the youngest son, confessed that he “pretty much did anything that was put in front” of him when he was in his teens. This confession startled fans, who were positive that this Christian family was all about doing good and following in the Lord’s footsteps.

Jep Robertson from Duck Dynasty
Source: A&E

Jep’s drug abuse was so bad that he experienced complete blackouts at one point. “I remember waking up [one night], I had one leg in my truck door, and it was on a gravel road, and I was all skinned up … And I drove somewhere that night, and to this day, I don’t know what I did that night. I hope I didn’t run over somebody. I don’t know.”

Jep’s Traumatizing Childhood Experience

In Jep’s book, The Good, the Bad, and the Grace of God: What Honesty and Pain Taught Us About Faith, Family, and Forgiveness, he revealed that he was abused by an older student when he was a little boy in elementary school.

Reality TV personality Jep Robertson greets fans in the Duck Commander Compound.
Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images

He wrote about a girl who used to sit next to him on the bus: “After a while, the girl started doing strange things… It was awkward… I didn’t know what was going on, but I knew something wasn’t right… I didn’t want to go to school. I think for a while, I just tried to bury it so deep that I kind of forgot about it for a while.”

Disputes Over Relocations

Willie Robertson and his wife Korie argued about moving to L.A. In 2017, an insider revealed to The Hollywood News Daily that “big trouble is brewing in their marriage. Korie told Willie that even if he is not willing to move, she would like to open a shop in Los Angeles, get an apartment and spend a lot of her time there.”

Korie Robertson and Willie Robertson of the reality series
Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images

Another reason to relocate to L.A. had to do with their daughter Sadie’s modeling career. Korie claimed it would be far easier for Sadie to find work in California. This dispute rocked the family’s boat a bit, but the couple are still together and currently still living in Louisiana.

A Drive-By Shooting at Willie’s Estate

In April 2020, someone drove by Willie’s estate and shot his house. “It looks like they were just spraying bullets across my property,” he explained. It might not have been intentional, but it was unbelievably scary. One of the ten bullets went right through John and his wife Mary-Kate’s bedroom window.

CCTV footage of the car that the shooter used to fire at Willie’s home.
Source: Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office

Fortunately, no one was physically hurt. But mentally, Willie stated they were all “pretty shook up” by the dramatic event.

Phil Robertson Built Himself Up From Nothing

Phil Robertson made a fortune from his duck company and made an even bigger fortune from the show. But he spent the first years of his life living in poverty. He was born in Louisiana in 1946 to a large family with many siblings.

Phil at the start of his career making duck whistles in his workshop.
Source: A&E

Their house didn’t have electricity, and they lacked a proper bathtub and toilet. They barely had any money to purchase food, so they had to grow their own fruits and vegetables. “It was the 1950s when I was a young boy, but we lived like it was the 1850s … but we were always happy, happy, happy no matter the circumstances,” Phil recalled.

Phil Had the Chance to Go Pro

Phil had an opportunity to change his life when he was a young man. He played football with future NFL star Terry Bradshaw and was offered a chance to go pro as well. He was offered a position with the Washington Redskins, but Phil decided he didn’t want the job. Why not?

A teenage Phil Robertson is playing football.
Source: Pinterest

Because it wouldn’t allow him enough time to do his favorite hobby — hunting. He later said of the decision that instead of going for the big bucks, he “chased after the ducks.” Perhaps that was the best decision he ever made. The series has generated $400 million from merchandising alone.

Phil Is a Sharp and Educated Man

Phil Robertson has some really dodgy and outdated opinions. But he’s not a dumb guy. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education and a master’s in Education. So how did he go from teaching to ducks? He didn’t like the products on the market, so he decided to come up with his own.

Reality TV personality Phil Robertson greets fans in the Duck Commander Compound.
Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images

Phil wanted to create a device that would sound exactly like a duck, so he worked hard on it and eventually released his masterpiece in 1972. His company was established a year later and, to this day, is earning him millions of dollars.

Sticky Frog Legs & Other Delicacies

One of Miss Kay’s favorite pastimes is being in the kitchen and cooking for her family. We have to admit that many meals sound and look absolutely delicious, like her banana pudding and crawfish pie. But some dishes are … questionable.

Kay Robertson is cooking in the kitchen.
Source: Youtube

According to Miss Kay, like her sticky frog legs recipe, you can either soak them in lemon juice or fry them in butter. Miss Kay even has her own cookbook: Miss Kay’s Duck Commander Kitchen. If you want to taste some sticky frog legs, her book is just what you need.

Si’s Famous Blue Cup

One of Uncle Si’s most cherished possessions is his blue plastic cup. If you watched the show in the past and wondered why he carried it around with him so much, it’s because his mom sent it to him when he served time in Vietnam.

Uncle Si is holding his blue cup in the woods.
Source: A&E

His cup became so famous from the show that fans have put together a Facebook page in honor of it. Si’s blue cup is more than just your ordinary Tupperware; it’s a symbol of bravery, courage, and the importance of family.

The One Guy Without a Beard

Phil’s oldest son, Al Robertson, is the only one out of the family without a beard, which goes to show that you can hunt and fish and live in the wilderness without looking like Jesus. He helped his family build the business for a couple of years until he left it all to become a minister.

Al Robertson is posing for a promotional picture.
Source: A&E

After 22 years, he left his holy duties and got back to serving the family. Al has really been through a lot in his life. He revealed in his 2015 memoir that his wife had multiple affairs, but the two were able to push through it all. “We believe God was helping us. I believe there was something bigger than myself giving me assistance,” he told Fox 411.

Farewell, Long Luscious Locks

The Duck Dynasty men sported long hair and beards for duck hunting season so they could camouflage themselves. But they didn’t necessarily want to wear that look all year long. But after signing their contract with A&E, they had to.

Willie Robertson shocks everyone with a new short haircut.
Source: Facebook

The network forced their duck stars to remained bearded and rugged as long as filming went on. Once the show stopped filming, they were free to do as they pleased. Jep cut off his shoulder-length hair in 2017, and Jase chopped it all off as well.

People Almost Got Fired Over the Show

Whoever continued to publicly support Phil Robertson after his interview with GQ found himself in a lot of trouble. An air force base in Florida had employees who sported “I Support Phil” stickers on their vehicles, something that was frowned upon by many.

The truck Phil Robertson drives is covered with logos and stickers.
Source: Facebook

Executive Vice President of the local union chapter, Alan Cooper, voiced his concerns: “I don’t know how long these individuals harbored these views – could they have impacted employment opportunities for folks that have been disparaged by the likes of a Phil Robertson.”

Willie Robertson Loves Fame

Reality stars work hard to make it seem like they’re humble, relatable, and simple. Just like you and me, ordinary folks. And the Duck Dynasty family members are thought of as humble and honest. They’re a far cry from the Kardashians, right?

Phil and Willie Robertson take part in pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Well, not really. Willie Robertson is apparently a fame-hungry guy who’s desperate to see his name in lights. Rumors have it that his hunger for fame caused a tear in the family, and his snobby attitude got on a lot of people’s nerves.

Harvey Levin Surprisingly Stood Up for Phil

Surprisingly, not everyone was tearing Phil apart online after his anti-gay commentary. Founder of TMZ, Harvey Levin, tweeted: “I’m gay, and I don’t agree with Phil, but he has a right to his believes [sic]… it’s not hate-based … it’s religious… misdirected but his right.”

Producer Harvey Levin speaks onstage at How TV & The Internet Are Converging On TMZ
Photo by Bobby Longoria/Getty Images

I guess when you cover up hurtful comments with religion, Jesus, and the holy path, those comments suddenly don’t look half as bad. Harvey Levin slammed A&E for shunning Phil and called them dishonest and their behavior “outrageous.”

The Show’s Producers Were Sued

Producers Deirdre and Scott Gurney are the founders of Gurney Productions, the company responsible for producing Duck Dynasty. But they were fired from their company after doing some really sketchy things.

(L-R) Producers Deirdre Gurney and Scott Gurney, and TV personality Korie Robertson attend the 22nd Annual Movieguide Awards Gala.
Photo by Rodrigo Vaz/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Apparently, they opened a new company but set up an agreement to look like they had nothing to do with them. Gurney Production filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of California “on the grounds of self-dealing, fraudulent concealment and breach of contract.” The case was finally settled after two long years, and today, the boys are free to open a new chapter in their lives.

PETA vs. the Duck Slayers

PETA, an activist organization, fighting for animal rights, spoke up about the “duck slayers” and called for the network to cancel their show. Apart from reaching out to A&E, PETA also approached the public (mainly devoted Christians) and urged them to come to their senses.

Animal rights activists seen holding signs while marching through the streets of New York.
Photo by Erik McGregor/LightRocket/Getty Images

PETA’s statement read: “All people who consider themselves followers of Christ should follow all His teachings—and that includes showing mercy, compassion, and kindness to all of God’s creation, human and nonhuman alike.”

Sadie Robertson’s Dating Drama

Willie’s daughter, Sadie, pretty much grew up in the spotlight. But it’s not always fun to have cameras in your face. Especially when life gets rough. When Sadie was going through boyfriend drama, she had to deal with it like a true reality star – and be as honest as possible about it.

Sadie Robertson visits Build Series to discuss her book 'Live Fearless' at Build Studio
Photo by Mike Pont/Getty Images

And what better way to let your fans know what’s going on than to post it on social media? Sadie uploaded an honest and heartbreaking video on YouTube, where she discussed the break up and mentioned how important it was for her to set an example of how to deal with situations like these.

Sadie’s Thoughts on the Duggars’ Scandal

The Robertson and the Duggars have a lot in common. Both families know what it’s like to be in the spotlight, and both have similar Christian values. So, it’s not surprising that their kids get along. Sadie and the Duggar’s eldest daughter, Jana, are good friends.

The entire Duggar family is sitting on their staircase at home.
Source: Facebook

When the Duggars were going through a hard time following Josh’s affair and molestation scandal (he cheated on his wife and fondled some girls, including his sisters, while they were asleep), Sadie spoke up about it and showed her support. She said, “It’s been really hard, and it makes me really sad that they’re having to go through this. We’ve been there, it was hard, we’re praying for them, we’re there for them.”

Sadie Stood By Her Duggar Friend

While the Robertsons haven’t suffered an incestuous scandal like the Duggars, they still know what it’s like to be shunned by everyone, including the network. Sadie compared what her family went through after Phil’s homophobic comments to what the Duggars were experiencing.

Sadie is sitting on the couch with a few of the Duggar girls.
Source: Facebook 

“They almost canceled Duck Dynasty when my grandpa said the things that he said. That would’ve been not a good decision because that was putting one man’s words in all of our mouths,” Sadie commented. She stressed that only Josh Duggar committed the crime, and the rest of the family shouldn’t be punished.

Some Robertsons Weren’t There for the Duggars

But not all Robertsons felt the same about the Duggars scandal. Missy Robertson (Jase’s wife) stated: “As far as the relationship, that’s gotta be her [Anna Duggar] decision whether or not she wants to go on without him. She certainly has that right because he interrupted their marriage with those affairs.”

Missy and Jase Robertson pose for a photo.
Source: Facebook

Jase Robertson backed her up and added, “You can forgive somebody, but that doesn’t mean there is no consequences for your actions.” Both Missy and Jase felt like Anna was the victim, and the network’s response to Josh’s scandalous behavior was appropriate.

Sadie Robertson’s First Acting Gig

It was clear from the very beginning that Sadie was meant to be a star. Being part of a reality show was just the springboard she needed to bounce herself into Hollywood. She joined Dancing With the Stars’ 19th season and absolutely shined on the dancefloor!

Sadie is performing on Dancing with the Stars.
Source: YouTube 

Sadie also landed her first acting role in a film called I’m Not Ashamed, a movie about Rachel Joy Scott, a victim of the 1999 Columbine school shooting. Sadie’s younger sister, Bella, and her mom, Korie, were also part of the cast, and the filming experience was truly unique for all three of them.

Sadie Turned Down the Lead Role

Sadie was offered the lead role of Rachel Joy Scott, but she turned it down because she felt like wasn’t ready to take on such a big part. “You know what? I don’t think I can pull off a complete lead like this. I’m not ready to do that. I have to be in this movie, though. I want to be in this movie.” She commented.

A still of Sadie in the film ‘I’m Not Ashamed.’
Source: YouTube 

In addition to her part in I’m Not Ashamed, Sadie also appears in the Christian film God’s Not Dead 2: He’s Surely Alive. She told ChristianCinema, “Jesus gave his life for me. And like Melissa’s character says in God’s Not Dead 2, ‘I’d rather stand with God and be judged by people than stand with people and be judged by God.’”

Dad Willie Wasn’t Happy About Julianne’s Comment

Willie wasn’t too happy about what some of the judges from Dancing With the Stars had to say about his daughter. When judge Julianne Hough told Sadie that she needed to “get more down and dirty with her dancing,” he told the media, “I’m gonna have to talk to Julianne about that.”

Sadie and Willie is posing for photos on the red carpet.
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images

“Maybe she can get down, but maybe not so dirty,” he added. But putting Julianne’s comment aside, both Willie and Korie were extremely proud to see their daughter shine like that. Willie admitted he started crying the first time he saw her dance.

Dancing with the Stars’ Outfits Were a Bit Problematic

Julianne’s comments weren’t the only problematic thing on DWTS. The wardrobes were an issue as well! And Sadie wasn’t the first Christian to acknowledge that. Her dancing partner, Mark Ballas, was previously paired with Candace Cameron-Bure, who, like Sadie, holds conservative Christian values.

Sadie backstage at Dancing with the Stars.
Source: Twitter 

Candace commented, “I’m a Christian. My life revolves around my relationship with Jesus Christ. So, with the overall tone of the dance and the costumes, I’m not going to take a backseat. My voice will definitely be heard.”

Sadie’s Dance Partner Was Super Supportive

Thankfully, dancer Mark Ballas was super supportive of Sadie and respected her strong values and beliefs. He told Entertainment Tonight, “with [Sadie], it’s going to be very appropriate, and it’s always going to be comfortable. That’s my bottom-line rule.”

Sadie Robertson and Mark Ballas wowed judges with their performance on last night's ''Dancing with the Stars'' premiere.
Source: YouTube 

Mark Ballas himself is completely free-spirited when it comes to dancing attire. The show’s designers, Gschwendtner and Lee, stated: “He was always open to everything, which allowed us to be creative.” So, even though Mark remained open to everything, he respected his partner’s boundaries.

Jessica Was Previously Married and Hid it From Her Kids

Jep and Jessica’s 2015 memoir, The Good, the Bad, and the Grace of God: What Honesty and Pain Taught Us About Faith, Family, and Forgiveness caused the family some trouble. The juicy details about their pre-Duck Dynasty life shocked many.

Jessica and her ex-husband.
Source: Facebook

Jessica was previously married to her youth pastor. Their love story ended horribly, and she hid the whole story from her four kids. Jessica revealed that she felt like her previous husband was taking advantage of her, and it took her a while to realize she wasn’t in love with him one bit.

Jessica’s Eating Disorder Almost Killed Her

Jessica’s fans were also shocked to discover that the stress from her first marriage led to an eating disorder: “I think a lot of girls struggle with that. I wouldn’t eat anything with fat in it. I would go as far as getting powdered skim milk because it had no fat in it.”

Jessica, Jep, and their family posing for a perfect photo.

She became obsessed with working out and counting calories. Her body deteriorated to a really dangerous place, and she knew she had to turn things around. Religion and her relationship with Jep are the two main anchors that helped ground her back to life.

An Unrecognizable Jase Robertson

A famous quote from the show that many beard-loving men can probably relate to is Jase’s comment that “There are two kinds of people without beards, children, and women, and I am neither.” Surprisingly, he shaved it all off in 2017.

Jase, along with his brothers and father, after his new and improved haircut.
Source: Facebook

He even uploaded a video documenting his farewell from his signature bushy beard. But his dramatic shave wasn’t just a spur-of-the-moment decision. It was for a good cause. He agreed to shave his beard if fans could help him raise $100,000 for his Mia Moo Fund, a charity he opened after the birth of his daughter, Mia. She was born with a cleft lip, and Jase wanted to raise money and awareness on the topic.

Phil Believes God Created AIDS to Punish Hollywood

Following Harvey Weinstein’s sex abuse scandal, Phil Robertson told Catholic news network EWTN that the entertainment industry was full of sin and that God was mad about it. So mad that he created AIDS to shake people up.

Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson speaks on stage before a crowd.
Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images

“Can you believe it?” he asked: “There’s rank sexual immorality and perversion coming out of, of all places, Hollywood, California. Is this a stunner or what?” Robertson concluded that Harvey could be forgiven only if he turned to Christ.