The down-home foodie celebrity, Paula Deen, has been the target of mockery and outrage while losing key corporate partners in the process, since the release of a lawsuit deposition. The deposition was part of a suit filed by Lisa T. Jackson, a former general manager of one of Deen’s Georgia restaurants, for sexual and racial harassment while working for Deen and her brother Bubba Hiers.
The Food Network star admitted in the deposition, in a discrimination lawsuit, that she used racial slurs in the past. Deen was asked under oath if she had ever used the N-word. “Yes, of course,” Deen said, though she added, “It’s been a very long time.” The way she responded to the question didn’t settle with a lot of people and has raised a of questions and assumptions.
Deen has emphatically denied that she harbors racist thoughts. “I believe every creature on this earth, every one of God’s creatures, was created equal. . . That’s the way I was raised, that’s the way I live my life.” And she painted herself as a victim of “very, very hurtful lies” and judgments passed by “people I have never heard of [who] are all of a sudden experts on who I am.”
Deen was invited to the Today show, Wednesday, June 26, 2013 to speak upon the recent allegations. Asked by host Matt Lauer about her use of the n-word, Deen gave an emotional and scattered account of the day she was held up in a bank robbery 30 years ago. “That man was so frightened the day he put the gun to my head. He was a customer; I had gone out on a limb for him and gotten him a loan, and he was frightened I was going to recognize him,” she said. You’d have to be familiar with her previous accounts where she explained that the robber was African-American, and that she used the slur describing him to her husband later, to follow what she was talking about.
Deen and her public relations team released no fewer than three apologies last week; in one, a lawyer explained that she’s a product of an earlier era in the south. Deen didn’t go there on the Today show, though, instead repeating over again that she “wasn’t raised that way.” As a child, she said, her father warned her against behaving “a way where you think you are better than others or have been unkind.”
Deen raked in $17 million in 2012 and was the fourth highest paid chef last year, according to Forbes. But now she’s the subject of a national debate about old and new Southern attitudes towards race. As a result of Deen’s honest admission under oath, The Food Network has canceled her show and major sponsor Smithfield Foods dropped her. Other companies like QVC, Sears, Target, and Publisher Ballantine, which have a new Deen book scheduled to roll out this fall, are sitting on the fence “monitoring the situation”. QVC last week said it has no plans to put Deen on the air at this time.
Paula Dean’s restaurant at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino will close, according to the company that manages the business. “While we appreciate Paula’s sincere apologies for statements she made in her past that she recently disclosed during a deposition given in response to a lawsuit, after thoughtful consideration of their impact, we have mutually decided that it is in the best interests of both parties to part ways at this time,” said Jan Jones Blackhurst, Executive Vice President of communications and government affairs for Caesars Entertainment.
Among other offenses, she’s confessed to saying she wanted “a true southern plantation-style wedding… Well, what I would really like is a bunch of little (N-word)s to wear long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties…you know, in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around… the whole entire waiter staff was middle-aged black men, and they had on beautiful white jackets with a black bow tie… not only black men, it was black women…I would say they were slaves.”
A leading civil rights group have confirmed to Fox News that more employees from Deen’s restaurants from around the country are coming forward with more complaints. Janice Mathis, Vice President for the Rainbow Push Coalition, founded by the Reverend Jesse Jackson, said, “lighter skinned people and white people are working in the restaurant while darker skinned people are working in the kitchen… one employee is referred to as a ‘little monkey,’ and is referred to that over and over again. One man was shaken by a manager, saying he doesn’t have any rights here.”
Rainbow Push said that none of these employees are looking for any money or notoriety, and for the time being they are all remaining anonymous. What they are looking for is better working conditions. They have decided to speak up now because they felt safe to tell what they knew. That discriminatory actions have been going on for a while now and would have never mentioned anything, until now that everything is coming out.
Even though they are now directly saying this to Deen, they hold her responsible because these are working at her restaurants and she remains contact with the managers who are treating these employees this way. The kinds of things you wouldn’t think occur anymore are taking place right under Paula Deen’s nose, which is a concern to the public.