In December 2013, a time when Americans might have otherwise been fighting the War on Christmas, they were gripped by the fate of Phil Robertson.
GQ writer Drew Magary had tagged along with Robertson and the other stars of TV’s Duck Dynasty, and Robertson had gone on a tear about the sins of homosexuality.
“We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus, whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists,” he said, among other things. One culture war later, Robertson had become a martyr for free speech.
He was invited to the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans to address the faithful; he became the first of several conservatives whose reality show dreams crashed against the rocks of political correctness.
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And this month, Robertson will appear at the Conservative Political Action Conference to accept the joint Citizens United/Breitbart.com “Andrew Breitbart Defender of the First Amendment Award.”
“A large part of Andrew Breitbart’s vision was that conservatives would take back modern pop culture, and the Robertson family have become some of the most popular and beloved media personalities today, while keeping God at the center of their family, business and their hit television show,” said Citizens United president David Bossie in a statement.
“Phil has the guts to do and say what most politicians in Washington won’t,” said Breitbart.com's Stephen K. Bannon.
“When one does not have the freedom to speak out loud and anywhere what one believes, freedom is dead,” Robertson said.
Past CPACs have been roiled by conflicts between conservative leaders and gay conservative activists.
In 2011, the gay Republican group GOProud lost a public argument with some board members of the American Conservative Union. In 2012, GOProud was denied a simple booth at the event; it rebelled by hosting a “Big Gay Party,” co-organized by Andrew Breitbart.
In 2014, new leaders of GOProud were invited to CPAC on the condition they didn't reserve a booth.
“I wouldn't accept a three-fifths invitation to CPAC,” said former executive director, Jimmy LaSalvia.
By the end of the year, GOProud was dead.