It's entirely possible that A&E wanted all this to happen
1. A&E had a media rep during the GQ interview. The media rep's job is to prevent his subject from being asked questions or make statements that will make him look bad. Curiously enough, the A&E rep did not decide to cut in at the right time. I'm not saying that he should have stepped in from my perspective, but from the perspective of a cable net looking to protect a valuable property that would have been the exact moment to step in.
So either the rep was incompetent or he deliberately allowed this to happen.
2. A&E's "punishment" of Phil Robertson was meaningless. It put him on hiatus while the show was on hiatus. This is a little like suspending a teacher over the summer. It did it to cover its ass from the gay lobby backlash. Instead it ended up on the receiving end of a backlash that it completely did not expect from the family and from conservative viewers.
The network's priorities were taking place in a bubble in which the opinion of GLAAD on Duck Dynasty mattered more than its viewers.
3. Phil Robertson is now "back", officially, even though it's quite clear that he was never really away. A&E had no intention of tampering with its moneymaker. But if things had gone according to plan, it would have made that announcement quietly after a statement from Phil Robertson about learning to like gay people.
Instead A&E is forced to concede defeat and GLAAD is now angrier than ever. A&E's statement is ridiculously contorted, blaming GQ while appearing to place some responsibility, sort of, on Phil, and promising pro-gay programming and PSAs as a payoff. And probably money.
4. A&E screwed this up at the interview stage. Or it solicited exactly this reaction. It got a huge amount of publicity from Duck Dynasty's core audience. And that is likely to lead to a viewership increase.
It's entirely possible that A&E wanted all this to happen and that it got exactly what it wanted, milking a culture war for cold hard cash.