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NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Louisiana's lieutenant governor says the "Duck Dynasty" reality TV show is important to state tourism _ and he could help connect the Robertson family with new producers if they cannot reach agreement with the A&E network.
The network suspended patriarch Phil Robertson last week for telling GQ magazine that gays are sinners akin to adulterers and swindlers.
"I'm sure a lot of people found the comments offensive. There's no question about that," Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne said Sunday. "The point is he has an opinion and has a set of beliefs and is entitled to those without jeopardizing what has become an extremely popular show across America."
Dardenne, who authored the state's film and TV tax credit program, said he wasn't talking about anything that would cost the state money or would require work by people in his office _ just his own personal contacts with people in the industry.
In a statement emailed Saturday, he wrote, "Regardless of one's views on Phil Robertson's statements, Duck Dynasty has been an important representation of the state of Louisiana, inspiring prospective visitors and investors since its debut."
The show is produced around the Robertson family's home base in Ouachita Parish. KNOE-TV of Monroe reported in February that the show was bringing people from around the country who wouldn't otherwise stop in northeast Louisiana. The Duck Commander warehouse has become a tourist attraction, said Alana Cooper, director of the Monroe-West Monroe Visitors and Convention Bureau.
Dardenne, whose job includes running the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, said the audience of tens of millions includes many people eager to visit Louisiana.
"If the Robertson family cannot come to an agreement with A&E and wants to continue the show, Louisiana already has the infrastructure in place to maintain their record-breaking program," he wrote.
He said Sunday that he did not know whether the family's contract with A&E would prevent work for any other TV production company, "nor am I privy to any discussions they may be having with the network."
Gov. Bobby Jindal said Thursday that everyone is entitled to express their opinions.
More than 1.7 million fans have liked an impromptu Facebook page titled "Boycott A&E Until Phil Robertson Is Put Back On Duck Dynasty" _ one of numerous pages with similar names, though none of the others has even 1 percent as many "likes."
"Duck Dynasty" is on hiatus until Jan. 15. A network spokesman told the AP on Thursday that nine of next season's 10 episodes have already been filmed. That means Robertson likely isn't needed in front of the camera before next March.
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