The Robertson family from the reality show, Duck Dynasty, became wildly successful national stars. But in the five years that the series ran, they’ve been the center of controversy and gossip. There’s so much of it that it’s tough to keep track of the scandals. But the Robertsons have decided to come clean about everything.Led by brothers Phil and Si, Duck Dynasty follows the Robertson family’s lives. But even though they’re rich now, the brothers were poor growing up. They were born in Vivian, Louisiana, and were two of seven kids living in a house with no plumbing or electricity. They hunted for meat and grew their vegetables and fruits. But when Phil started high school, their fortunes began to change.
In high school, Phil Robertson was a star athlete and earned himself a football scholarship to Louisiana Tech. He was approached by the Washington Redskins to play professionally for them, but Phil turned the offer down. He was only using his interest in football to finish his studies, but hunting was his calling. And this hobby would make him quite successful.
Phil was great at hunting ducks, but didn’t like the duck calls that were in the market. So, he created his own Duck Commander and patented it. In 1973, he founded the company, and created duck calls using Louisiana cedar trees for 25 years. As the business grew, Phil handed the business to his son Willie. In 2012, the company earned $40 million. TV stardom was the family’s next step.
The family had their own show called Duck Commander, which aired on the Outdoor Channel, but had caught the eye of A&E. In 2012, the network created Duck Dynasty. The show broke cable television’s rating records over its 5-year run. It’s fourth season premiere alone had 11.8 million viewers. It became TV history’s most-watched nonfiction cable series. But there was nothing entirely real about this reality series.
Many fans don’t know that the men on the show didn’t have facial hair before the series. But long hair and beards became known as major characteristics of the Robertson family. For ten weeks, they grew their beards during duck hunting season, which also made great camouflage. But their contract required them to keep their beards year-round for Duck Dynasty. But the Robertsons were the epitome of a true redneck.
A 2009 video of Phil speaking at a Georgia Sportsmen Ministry created controversy for the popular series. “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,” he said. And that wasn’t the only strong verbal attack he spewed out.
During a GQ magazine interview in December 2013, Phil got asked: “What, in your mind, is sinful?” And he replied: “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.” In the interview he made some unpleasant comments about race relations during the pre-civil rights time.
Phil told GQ: “I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.” A&E suspended Phil from the series for nine days after his comment drew outrage from the public. Fortunately, other family members had more heartwarming narratives.
Fans noticed something unusual about Si, who was Phil’s brother, as the show continued. Si was always seen with a blue Tupperware cup. In a book, Si shared that his mother sent him the cup when he was deployed in Vietnam as part of a care package. He’s been carrying it in his back pocket since then. Though that story was true, the series had begun to lose its aura of authenticity with its viewers.
The real behind-the-scenes process of shooting Duck Dynasty was blown wide open when a casting e-mail from 2014 surfaced. The e-mail asked for four bearded men to be stand-ins for the stars while filming. This proved that the cameras aren’t bystanders during filming. Instead, it seems the scenes are set up the way TV scripted shows are. But not even the producers were able to predict this crossover on reality TV.
Willie’s daughter, Sadie became friends with two other stars from another reality series in March of 2015: Joy Anna and Jana Duggar from 19 Kids and Counting. Sadie was asked about Josh Duggar’s cheating scandal, which she showed sympathy for the Duggar family. She said, “We’ve been there, it was hard, we’re praying for them, we’re there for them.” Meanwhile, other family members began to explore literary venues.
Sadie’s uncle, Alan, and his wife, Lisa, published a book earlier that year called, “A New Season: A Robertson Family Love Story of Brokenness and Redemption.” The book shared details about how Lisa’s year-long affair, and how she had gotten an abortion when she was 16. She also shared being molested when she was 7, as well as other details of their troubled past. Alan’s youngest brother then decided to write a book too.
In 2015, Jep Robertson and his wife Jessica, published a memoir called, “The Good, the Bad, and the Grace of God.” In it, Jep and Jessica talked about their past and heartbreaking details like Jessica’s eating disorder, as well as Jep’s drug use. Jep had also revealed that an older student had molested him when he was a kid. But while their books were a hit, Sadie’s career goals were directed somewhere totally different.
Sadie made her film debut in 2016 in “I’m Not Ashamed,” which is based on Rachel Scott, a shooting victim of the Columbine school. Sadie got offered the lead role, but she decided that a supporting character suited her more and admitted that she wasn’t ready to be the lead. So, while the Robertson clan is full of controversy, members of the production staff were also plagued with infamy.
Scott and Deirdre Gurney, two Duck Dynasty producers, were sued by ITV America for fraud and breach of contract, which became a legal scandal. The couple was forced to sell most of their production company’s ownership to IVT, but eventually created another company and started racking up deals that were lucrative. The Gurneys eventually counter-sued ITV, claiming that the network schemed a way to take control of the company from them.