Oh, Paula Deen. You've gotten yourself into some hot water this week. The Food Network star, businesswoman and bigger-than-life personality has fallen from grace following the admission during court deposition that she had used a racial slur. From that point on, no amount of apologizing or explaining seemed to help. In fact, she seemed to dig herself deeper into the mire.
On the morning the story broke, she backed out of an appearance on the "Today Show." She posted a scripted video apology, which she later scrapped, choosing instead to post a heart-felt off-the-cuff explanation and apology. And soon, her business partners - Food Network, Smithfield Farms, Target, HomeDepot and even Walmart - began to back away from her. They cancelled long-standing contracts and did everything they could to distance themselves from the chef and her statements.
The question about a racial slur came up in a deposition for a racial and sexual harassment suit filed by a former employee at a restaurant owned by Deen and her brother, Earl. She was asked if she had ever used the "N" word, to which she was quoted as saying, "Yes, of course. But that's just not a word that we use as time has gone on. Things have changed since the '60s in the south." This isn't the first time she's faced the heat of public scrutiny. She's been criticized for promoting high fat, salt and sugar recipes, even after she was diagnosed with Type II diabetes. The racial slur incident also brought an end to her deal with Norvo Nordisk, a diabetes drug company, for whom she was a spokesperson.
The aftermath of both incidents could have been an opportunity to educate, rather than back pedal. She could have been the poster child for healthy eating and living. With the recent incident, her critics have said she could have used her apology to publicly recognize the struggles thatso many Americans have faced through the years and continue to experience yet today.
I have to say, I've always loved watching Paula Deen. She seemed so down-to-earth and genuine as she whipped together delicious concoctions in her kitchen. I admired the fact that she created a business as a single mother. She started a catering business, making sandwiches out of her kitchen which her two sons delivered. Her business blossomed and she eventually opened a restaurant in Savannah, GA., called The Lady and Sons. And other restaurants, TV deals, cookbooks and products followed.
Her fans have taken to Facebook and Twitter, to voice their outrage as Food Network and her other business partners left. According to some news accounts, pre-orders for Deen's latest cookbook are surging. She's really been skewered in cartoons and by the late night comedians. Forums at online news sites have rapid-fire digs from both sides of the issue - each trying to sway the other's viewpoint. Some think the whole thing has been overblown; others think Deen hasn't suffered enough.
The Southern chef will likely survive this incident. I don't think she said the remark with malice in her heart. She was raised in a culture that didn't understand how offensive a remark like that can be. But that's really no excuse. That type of language is not acceptable. She crossed a line and there are consequences when that lined is crossed.
I'd like to see Deen take the lead on speaking out about those hurtful phrases and slurs. It really is a form of bullying, when you think about it. It's time for a new recipe on treating each other respect and love. So for now, Paula, put down the stick of butter and have a slice of humble pie. Then help reeducate the bullies out there.