Duck Dynasty was a huge hit for A&E. Millions of viewers tuned in each week to watch the shenanigans of the Robertson clan, a bearded, fun-loving family from Louisiana who run a very successful business selling a duck call dubbed the Duck Commander. But after a while, ratings steadily dropped as the cast members’ on- and off-screen antics and scandals soured the show for many fans.
In addition to Phil Robertson’s many controversial comments, the family has also dealt with addiction, abuse, and more. Read on to learn all about the Robertsons’ biggest shockers and scandals.
Millions Tuned In From The Beginning
The reality show Duck Dynasty aired on A&E from 2012 to 2017. The program focused on the Robertson family, who make a living in Louisiana from their business, Duck Commander. Brothers Phil and Si, along with Phil’s sons Jase, Willie, and Jep, make products for duck hunters, especially the duck call known as the Duck Commander. The family is renowned for their long beards and Christian values.
The series was massively popular with fans. Nearly 12 million viewers tuned in to the fourth season premiere, making it the most-watched nonfiction program in cable history.
President Obama Was A Fan Of The Show
In 2015, Willie and Korie attended the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. A man approached them and said he was with the White House, and they needed to go with him for a few minutes. They wound up having a meeting with President Obama.
Willie said of their meeting: “He said he loves the show and watches it on Air Force One.” Korie 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!” So even if Willie is a Republican, he appreciated that Obama was a fan.
Prior to launching the reality show, the Robertsons made an enormous amount of money through their company, Duck Commander. In 2012, they reported $40 million in revenue. You can imagine the hefty paychecks the Robertsons brought home each month. Then they were hired by A&E to appear in a reality show and got paid to star on it. Advertisers spent $180,000 to land a 30-second commercial spot on the series.
With so much cash flowing, it would seem that the family had nothing to lose and everything to gain. However, not everything was perfect behind the scenes.
A&E Replaced The Stars With Stand-Ins
The show was stuffed with scandals that surprised many fans. Everyone knows that reality shows are occasionally scripted and don’t always reveal the truth, but many people believed that Duck Dynasty was the exception. The Robertsons always appeared very genuine. However, in 2014, the gossip site Radar Online uncovered a casting email from 2012.
The email stated that it was looking for four men with long beards to stand in for the actors from the show. Those who were interested were invited to send their statistics (i.e., height, weight and hair color) to be considered for the role.
Reed’s Trouble With Fame
Fans also worried about Jase and Missy Robertson’s son, Reed. The 18-year-old had a difficult time dealing with the fame that came along with the show, and at one point he thought about committing ending it all. Fortunately, things got better for the young man.
In 2015, he got engaged to his high school sweetheart Brighton Thompson on Christmas Eve in Central Park during a trip to New York City. He gave her a 3-carat diamond heirloom from his fiancee’s family, and he wrote on Instagram: “I couldn’t be more excited to marry this amazing woman. My fiancé is a babe in every way.” They tied the knot in October 2016.
Phil Promotes Child Marriage
It wasn’t long before Phil Robertson got caught up in a scandal. He made headlines after a shocking video from the past surfaced that showed him promoting child marriages. He said that girls should get married when they’re as young as 15. He rationalized this by saying he started dating his wife, Miss Kay, when she was 14.
He said in the clip: “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 Called For Jim Crowe Era Treatment Of Blacks
In December 2013, Phil Robertson turned his attention away from his massive homophobia for a moment to reflect on how great black people had it during the Jim Crowe days in America. Robertson claimed, “I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once.” Robertson then added that he “hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash.”
He then slammed black people for taking government handouts, adding, “Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.” His comments didn’t sit well with the NAACP and various other race-relation organizations.
A Pregnancy Was Terminated
In 2015, Alan and Lisa Robertson published a book called A New Season: A Robertson Family Love Story of Brokenness and Redemption. Alan is the oldest brother and a preacher. While it was revealed that Lisa had an affair that lasted over a year there were also many other salacious details. It turns out Alan was quite wild when he was young, including substance abuse throughout his teen years.
His future wife Lisa had to terminate a pregnancy when she was only seventeen which is a decision she came to regret (despite the awful way the pregnancy had started). This is quite the scandalous revelation, especially for a family hell-bent on sporting their Christian values. Lisa said, “I thought it was important to include because there are people out there who this has happened to… “Look, I did this. And you can find healing and comfort from Jesus in it.”
Phil Robertson Is Suspended For His Racist & Anti-Gay Remarks
Phil Robertson is one of the most controversial cast members on Duck Dynasty. He is frequently in tabloids for questionable remarks he makes about politics. In 2013, Phil did an interview with GQ magazine off-camera in which he made racist and anti-gay comments. He said homosexuality was a sin.
He also claimed that African-Americans were happy in pre-civil-rights-era Louisiana. Obviously, people were outraged by his statements.A&E suspended him from the show but reversed the decision nine days later.
Phil’s Interview Put the Nail in the Coffin for the Show
But all good things must come to an end. By the show’s sixth season premiere, only 4.6 million viewers tuned in. Even though a wedding-themed episode increased viewership in 2015, Duck Dynasty’s ratings plummeted. By season 10, there were only 1.3 million viewers.
But the real reason the show was canceled? Signs point to Phil’s controversial interview with GQ, which couldn’t be overlooked. So after 11 seasons, Duck Dynasty stopped filming and the final episode aired on March 29, 2017.
One year after making controversial remarks about homosexuals and black people, Phil issued a mea culpa during an interview on Good Morning America. He tried to make things right by comparing himself to Jesus. He explained, “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.”
Then he talked about unifying the human race. He noted: “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 has color to do with it.”
Jep’s History With Substance Abuse
Even though the family had a strong connection to the church, fans were shocked when Jep confessed he “pretty much did anything that was put in front” of him when he was a teenager, including a laced cigarette “that was dipped in formaldehyde.” He also had blackouts.
He stated: “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 Hid The Abuse He Endured
In 2015, Jep revealed he had been abused by an older student when he was in elementary school. An older girl used to sit next to him on the bus. He wrote in his book The Good, the Bad, and the Grace of God: What Honesty and Pain Taught Us About Faith, Family, and Forgiveness.
“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.”
Jep: “I Just Tried To Bury It So Deep”
He added of the traumatic experience: “I didn’t want to go to school. I had a lot of absences. My mom always thought I was sick and there was definitely other reasons 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.”
Jep continued. “I think God put that on me for meeting someone like [my wife] Jessica who went through some hard times herself and I think it made our relationship stronger once we talked about it.”
Trouble Between Willie & Korie
Willie and Korie have reportedly butted heads about relocating to California. An insider told The Hollywood News Daily in June 2017, “It looks like 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 also claims that her 16-year-old daughter Sadie will find it easier to expand her budding modeling career in Los Angeles. Family members are gathering around Willie and Korie, praying with them and trying to get their dispute settled.
The Family Was Targeted In A Drive-By Shooting At Willie’s Estate
In April of 2020, Willie Robertson and his family were at home on their estate when someone drove by and shot at the house. “It looks like they were just spraying bullets across my property,” Robertson reported to The News-Star. One of the eight to 10 bullets that were fired ended up going through the bedroom window of the home where John Luke Robertson lives with his wife, Mary Kate, and their infant son.
Several members of the family had been staying at the estate during the Coronavirus pandemic. Fortunately, no one was hurt but Willie said that everyone was “pretty shook up” by the event.
Phil Came From Humble Beginnings
The Robertsons weren’t always wealthy. Before Phil founded the company and became rich, he lived in poverty. He was born in Louisiana in 1946 and had six brothers and sisters. They lived in a home without any electricity, and they didn’t have a bathtub or even a toilet. In order to survive, the family grew their own fruit and vegetables in their garden.
They ate the meat that they hunted and raised on their property. Despite their financial struggles, it was a good childhood. Phil recalled: “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 Nearly Had A Different, Yet Equally Lucrative, Career
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?
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 An Educated Man
For a guy with such strong business acumen, it’s no surprise that Phil earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education and a master’s degree in education. He wasn’t just a backwoods redneck — he was pretty smart. And there’s a simple reason why he got into the duck call business: he didn’t like the ones on the market.
Phil wanted a device that sounded exactly like a duck, so he invented his first Duck Commander in 1972. He got a patent and established his company in 1973. His business makes millions of dollars and is headed by his son, Willie Robertson.
Phil supported congressional candidate Vance McAllister in 2013 by endorsing him in a television commercial. The reality star is credited with helping McAllister, who never held a political office, win the election. Phil originally supported Ted Cruz for President, but after Cruz dropped out of the race Phil put his support behind Donald Trump.
He isn’t the only one of the Robertsons who backed Trump. His son Willie spoke at the Republican National Convention in support of Trump. Willie said: “If you’re looking for a job or trying to grow a business like I am, Donald Trump will have your back.”
Sticky Frog Legs & Other Favorite Delicacies
Kay Robertson married Phil when she was 16 years old. Her husband and kids call her “Miss Kay.” She raised their four sons, and one of her favorite pastimes is cooking her family (and the neighborhood) some delicious meals — sometimes using some unusual ingredients. Her popular recipes include banana pudding, fried deer steak, crawfish pie, and sticky frog legs.
With the frog legs, she either soaks them in lemon juice or fries them in butter. Like many members of the family, she is also an author. She published Miss Kay’s Duck Commander Kitchen. You too can learn how to cook like Miss Kay!
Si’s Blue Cup
If you’re a fan of the show, you probably noticed that Uncle Si is often filmed carrying a blue plastic cup with him. He has had that cup for a very long time and uses it constantly. Si’s mother apparently sent the cup to Si when he served time in Vietnam. It is very special to him and one of his prized possessions.
And he’s not the only one who has taken a special interest in it. Fans have also taken a liking to it and put together a Facebook page in honor of the cup. It has more than 7,000 likes.
The Only One Without A Beard
Al Robertson is Phil’s oldest son. He sticks out because he’s the only one in the family without a beard. Just like his brothers, he hunted and fished and helped build the family business in the ’70s and ’80s. However, he had a special calling. He left the business for 25 years to serve as a minister before returning home.
In 2015, he wrote a book and talked about his wife Lisa’s multiple affairs and how they repaired their relationship. He told Fox411: “We believe God was helping us. I believe there was something bigger than myself giving me assistance.”
Goodbye, Long Hair
In 2012, the stars of Duck Dynasty had long hair and beards for duck hunting season. They used it as camouflage. When they signed their contracts with A&E, they were required to keep their beards on their faces all year long. But once the show stopped filming, they were able to do what they wanted with their hair.
In May 2017, Jep cut off his shoulder-length hair on Facebook Live. He and his wife star in the spinoff show Growing The Dynasty. The following month, Jase cut off his hair as well. His wife posted a video of the transformation online.
Air Force Worker Almost Loses Job Over Show?!
A civil service worker at an Air Force Base in Florida got into hot water after a union that was representing other federal employees was not happy about the public support for Phil Robertson. This, of course, took place after Phil’s seemingly anti-gay commentary. The employees in question actually happened to be senior management officials who had “I Support Phil” stickers on their vehicles and one in their office.
After one subordinate voiced their concern, the manager offered him a sticker. Executive Vice President of the local union chapter, Alan Cooper, said the decals could be in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
Duck Dynasty Causing Trouble
Union Vice President Alan Cooper also noted his concern that the employee’s beliefs could transfer over into how they treat other employees who might be their subordinates. He said, “These two particular individuals have a great amount of influence over individuals who may be gay, who may be African-American. And we have a concern they should not be in a position to exert that influence when it comes to promotions.”
The union leader asked for the employees to be fired. The employees held their ground and said that they are simply showing support for “Christian values”. However, the Air Force allowed it and said it was within their rights of free speech.
Fame Hungry Willie
While The Robertson family is known for their down-home image of simple country people, the truth of that matter might be totally different. It seems as though one of the family members has a hankering for fame. While viewers everywhere cite the “relatable” and even humble attitude of the family members, rumors once said that Willie Robertson (the one who runs the business and is arguably the star of the show) is actually desperate for his name in lights.
According to the rumors, Willie lost sight of it all and was hungry for fame, which began to create a rift in the family. It seems that while Willie might have become preoccupied with fame, if his politics are any indication, he might have been even more driven by an even more common bottom line – the almighty dollar.
They Have A Friend In … Harvey Levin?
After Phil Robertson got caught in a quandary over his seemingly anti-gay comments, they found quite an unlikely ally in a gossip mogul. Harvey Levin: former lawyer, founder of TMZ, and People’s Court commentator was quick to take to Twitter in apparent support of the Duck Dynasty clan. 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.”
One might argue that it is also within personal rights to boycott a person’s show based on comments that might construe as racist for moral or even religious reasons. Another interesting side note about Harvey Levin is that he is also supposedly a close friend of Kris Jenner, so take that as you will.
Producers Fired And Sued
The Robertson family were not the only ones involved in the show to find themselves in trouble. Deirdre and Scott Gurney were producers on the show. Apparently, they were involved in some very shady criminal behavior which led to them being fired by the production company. They were the originators of the company – Gurney Productions – however, they later sold the majority stake in the company but remained involved.
This is where they got in trouble, they started a new company and then made a deal with that company while pretending they had nothing to do with it, and were also charging personal expenses to the company, and various payroll infractions. Yikes!
Clashes With PETA
After Phil Roberton’s anti-gay controversy he was also publicly chastised by yet another activist organization. PETA decided to throw their two cents into the ring about the Duck Dynasty clan. They called for A&E to cancel the show and also spoke directly to Christians urging them to ignore Sarah Palin (who spoke out in defense of Phil).
They also continuously referred to the Robertson clan as “duck slayers”, which is probably why the organization has a bone to pick with the family in the first place. Part of PETA’s statement read, “PETA wants A&E to do more than suspend one of the characters on ‘Duck Dynasty’ for damning gays.”
PETA Slams Christian Fans of Duck Dynasty
While PETA is known for courting attention, they certainly do not stray from their cause. PETA had this to say about Phil’s anti-gay sentiments: “We call on the channel to challenge the entire crew of duck slayers to ignore Sarah Palin’s self-serving slap on the back for spewing hate speech and deny that they are as anti-gay as they are anti-animal. 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.”
PETA really decided to drive home the point to their Christian followers, as most of the Robertson family included daughter Sadie have taken to the pulpit. PETA’s statement continued, “What’s ‘sinful’ is hating people and animals. PETA asks everyone who considers themselves to be Christian to reject hate speech and call for this show’s cancellation.”
Sadie Robertson Boyfriend Drama
Willie Robertson’s daughter, Sadie, pretty much grew up on camera and has now become a beautiful young lady. The bad part about growing up in the spotlight is there are sure to be a few blemishes and uncomfortable moments that most would simply chalk up to growing pains. One of these such instances was her boyfriend drama.
After dating one boy for several years named Blake Coward, the two ultimately broke up, much to the chagrin of fans watching her social media around the world. However, in true reality star form, Sadie posted about the break up in a YouTube video. Refreshingly, Sadie was very honest about the breakup and said she wanted to serve as an example of how to handle a similar situation for her young fans.
Sadie’s Breakup Advice
Sadie offered up some good advice saying, “Instead of being bitter, instead of being jealous, instead of being angry, want what’s best for them. No matter what the outcome, take the things that you know you can work on, grow in that, and be better for the next person. Be better for the person that God has planned and prepared for you.”
Sadie then ended the video with a prayer for all the broken hearts that are hurting around the world to be healed by God. Not long after it was revealed that Sadie had moved on to another boy, Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight. The new relationship didn’t last very long but seemed to serve as a breaking off point for her prior relationship.
Sadie On The Duggars
It has been well-documented that the Robertson family has gotten along with the Duggar family. That’s probably not a surprise since both families shared the spotlight and have shown a proclivity for similar Christian values. After the scandalous revelation that Josh Duggar had not only cheated on his wife but had also apparently acted inappropriately around some women and girls, Sadie Robertson spoke up in support of the family.
Sadie 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 is a good friend to the Duggar’s eldest daughter Jana.
The Duggar Mistake
Sadie conceded that she had spoken to Jana a bit and even hinted that she might have known about the scandal before it was public knowledge. She continued, “It’s been kind of a secret for a long time and when secrets come out, it’s not fun. But I think [Josh] is making a turnaround. It’ll all work out.” Sadie also seemed to compare her family’s situation (post-Phil Robertson’s seemingly homophobic comments) to what the Duggar family was experiencing.
Sadie said, “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.” She added, “[It was] Josh Duggar, his whole family didn’t do that, he made a mistake.”
Not All Robertsons Felt The Same
Missy and Jase Robertson seemed to feel a bit differently than their young niece about the entire situation. Missy spoke quite candidly about the idea of divorce saying, “As far as the relationship, that’s gotta be her decision whether or not she wants to go on without him. She certainly has that right, because he interrupted their marriage with those affairs.”
Her husband Jase echoed her sentiments saying, “You can forgive somebody, but that doesn’t mean there is not consequences for your actions.” Missy went even further and said that she believed Josh’s wife Anna was “definitely a victim.”
Sadie’s First Acting Role
After her stint in reality television Sadie Robertson was bitten by the Hollywood bug. Not only did the young woman take a turn on Dancing With the Stars but she also landed her very first legitimate acting role. The role was in the film called I’m Not Ashamed, which is a Christian movie about Rachel Joy Scott, who was a victim during the 1999 Columbine school shooting. Rachel is probably most remembered for being devoutly Christian and being the first student killed that fateful day at Columbine.
According to some survivors of the shooting, shooter Eric Harris came up to Rachel after she had already been shot and pulled her head up and asked her if she believed in God. Rachel apparently responded, “You know I do” and Harris responded, “Well, go be with Him” shooting her in the head.
The Meaningful Film
I’m Not Ashamed is based on Rachel Joy Scott’s own personal journals. While, Sadie was offered the main role of Rachel, she declined because she did not yet feel ready for such a major role. She still wanted to take part in the film and instead played the cousin of Rachel who helped bring her to Christianity. Sadie said, “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.’”
Rounding out the cast are more of Sadie’s family including younger sister Bella and mom Korie. Sadie discussed how important the film was to her and said that often she believes kids don’t feel comfortable talking about their faith at school. Sadie also landed another role in the Christian film God’s Not Dead 2: He’s Surely Alive.
Dad Willie Not On Board With Racy Outfits
During Sadie Roberton’s stint on Dancing With The Stars, judge Julianne Hough’s comments apparently didn’t sit too well with Dad Willie. After one performance, Julianne told Sadie that she needed to “get more down and dirty with her dancing.” Dad Willie is very conservative and the comments didn’t sit well with him. His daughter was still a teenager at the time so perhaps he was right this time.
We’re pretty sure almost no dad would want their teenage daughter to be told to get down and dirty on national television. Perhaps that isn’t exactly what Julianne meant but she certainly could have picked a better choice of words!
Christian Conflicts With Dancing With The Stars
Willie Robertson was caught by photogs with TMZ and asked about what he thought about Julianne Hough’s comments and Willie didn’t seem too mad but he also didn’t hold back. He said he was going to talk to Julianne about the “nature” of the comment. However, the comments haven’t been the only problem with the show.
Apparently, costumes have also been an issue! Sadie was paired with dancer Mark Ballas. In the previous season, he was paired with Candace Cameron-Bure who is also known for her conservative Christian values. Candace was a little bit iffy about wearing anything that might be seen as scandalous.
A Supportive Dancer
Luckily it seems as though both Sadie and Candace had a super supportive partner in dancer Mark Ballas. Mark told Entertainment Tonight, “This show has turned this outfit thing into a stereotype. If you went to a real ballroom competition, of course, there are sexy outfits…but every time you see someone on stage in one of those outfits, they chose to wear that… I like to keep things a little bit more about the dancing. Make it sassy, make it fun, make it cute and sexy at times, but with [Sadie] it’s going to be very appropriate and it’s always going to be comfortable. That’s my bottom-line rule.”
While ballroom dancing is known for relatively skimpy outfits, Mark was definitely able to think outside of the box by making sure the outfits are appropriate.
Jep And Jessica Drama
In 2015, Jessica and Jep Robertson released a book called The Good, the Bad, and the Grace of God: What Honesty and Pain Taught Us About Faith, Family, and Forgiveness. Inside the book were some pretty juicy details about their pre-married and pre-Duck Dynasty show life. Jessica was married very young to her youth pastor, which ended horribly. Jessica went so far as to hide her earlier marriage from her four children.
Jessica almost seems to insinuate that she was being taken advantage of by a much older man. “I also started to feel that I should be in love with him even though I wasn’t in love with him. Everyone said I was the luckiest girl in the world to have snagged him.” She later turned her life around and met her longtime husband Jep.
Eating Disorder Nightmare
Jessica also shared another secret she had been keeping with the public – an eating disorder. Jessica admitted that under the stress from her first marriage failure and right at the time she met Jep Robertson, she was struggling with 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 fat in it,” she said.
Her calorie restriction ended up becoming extremely severe and she also pushed herself to work out at an increasingly dangerous pace. Ultimately, Jessica credits her relationship with Jep and turning to religion as her saving grace in life.
Jase Robertson Shaves His Beard And Is Unrecognizable
In an episode of Duck Dynasty, Jase Robertson famously said, “There are two kinds of people without beards, children, and women, and I am neither.” Well, that can’t be said for Jase anymore. In September 2017, Jase shaved his signature beard in video that was broadcasted live to fans on Facebook. The best part? It was all for a good cause.
Jase’s daughter Mia was born with a cleft lip and started the Mia Moo Fund to help raise money for cleft lip and palate research. Jase agreed to shave his seven-year-old beard if fans could help raise $100,000 for the cause—and they did!
Phil Robertson Says God Created AIDS To Punish Hollywood
Following the revelation that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein had been assaulting women for years, Phil Robertson appeared on Catholic news network EWTN to talk about the scandal. Robert cited deaths during the AIDS crisis as proof that God was mad at the entertainment industry.
He said: “Can you believe it? there’s rank sexual immorality and perversion coming out of, of all places, Hollywood, California. Is this a stunner or what?” Robertson further said Hollywood was being punished with AIDS for its immoral ways but added that Weinstein “can be forgiven” if he turns to Christ.