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Gay 'sin' flap absent as new 'Duck Dynasty' season begins


"Duck Dynasty" premiered its fifth season on US television Wednesday without any mention of the furor touched off over the Christmas holidays when one of its stars suggested that homosexuality is a sin.

Several fresh episodes of the reality TV show about a rural Louisiana family that makes wooden duck calls for hunters were already in the can when Phil Robertson's views on gays appeared in GQ magazine.

Cable channel A&E initially suspended Robertson, 67, for more than a week, but then reinstated him in the face of a social media campaign by fans of the long-bearded, straight-talking, born-again Christian patriarch.

Wednesday's season premiere dwelled instead on the return from Los Angeles of Rebecca Robertson, 24, the fashionable Taiwan-born adopted daughter of Robertson's son Willie Robertson, the CEO of hunting supply firm Duck Commander.

First broadcast in 2012, "Duck Dynasty" centers on the extended Robertson clan, who struck it rich making and selling a cedar wood duck call for hunters called the Duck Commander, yet never abandoned their raw bayou ways.

Many fans say they love the weekly show - which typically pulls as many as 11 million viewers - for its downhome family values: no matter how dysfunctional the Robertsons are, they always come together in the end with love and affection.

In GQ, Robertson, a born-again Christian with a long shaggy beard, said: "Everything is blurred on what's right and what's wrong. 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."

Gay and lesbian activists, coming off a year that saw big gains on marriage equality, scrambled to condemn the remarks, while African-American groups recoiled at another part of the interview in which Robertson suggested that blacks he knew in his youth were happy in the days of segregation.

In the ensuing controversy, Robertson expressed regret while A&E distanced himself from the star, although entertainment trade journal Variety reported that advertising time on "Duck Dynasty" was selling for more than commercial slots for sitcoms on primetime network television.

Last Sunday in Montgomery, Alabama, granddaughter Sadie Robertson, 16, who also appears on the show, declined to talk about the uproar that generated so much publicity.

"I'm sure we could all say a lot about that, but the family has decided we're not going to talk about it really," she told the southern city's Advertiser newspaper. "But we will say we're really glad for us all to be back together as a family because (he's) the leader. We couldn't do anything without him."