Will Paula Deen Controversy Permanently Damage Her Career?
By Chelsea J. Carter and Carolyn Sung, CNN
NEW YORK (CNN) — Celebrity chef Paula Deen‘s contract with the Food Network will not be renewed, the network said Friday, the latest fallout over revelations that she admitted to using a racial epithet in the past.
Deen’s contract with the network, which airs three shows featuring the chef, expires at the end of the month, it said.
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The Food Network’s announcement followed reports that Deen acknowledged in a lawsuit deposition using the “N word.” Earlier in the week, the network said it would monitor the situation, but that it “does not tolerate any form of discrimination.”
In a statement, Deen thanked the network for 11 “great years.”
“… I have had the pleasure of being allowed into so many homes across the country and meeting people who have shared with me the most touching and personal stories,” she said. “… This would not have been possible without the Food Network. Thank you again. Love and best dishes to all of ya’ll.”
Home shopping network QVC is likewise re-examining its business relationship with Deen, Paul Campbell, vice president of communications, told CNN. He stressed the company does not “tolerate discriminatory behavior.”
The shopping network features the cookware line “Paula Deen’s Kitchen,” among other sponsored items.
A Walmart spokesman declined to comment on that company’s ties with Deen.
Last week’s events are stunning twists for the chef whose Southern, folksy flair with food made her a household name, spawning a line of kitchenware, cookware and food.
The Food Network’s announcement came on a head-spinning day of developments that began when Deen backed out of an interview with “Today” on NBC. She later apologized and begged for forgiveness in a video on YouTube that she pulled and replaced with a self-produced video where she again apologized.
“I want to apologize to everybody for the wrong that I’ve done,” Deen said in the first video statement. “I want to learn and grow from this. Inappropriate and hurtful language is totally, totally unacceptable. I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way but I beg you, my children, my team, my fans, my partners, I beg for your forgiveness.”
A short time later, Deen replaced the professionally edited video with one she made herself.
In that video, she apologized for backing out of the interview, saying she was “physically not able” to do it at the time.
“I’m taking this opportunity now that I’ve pulled myself together and am able to speak to offer an apology to those that I have hurt,” she said.
“… My family and I are not the kind of people the press are wanting to say we are,” she said. “…Your color, your religion, your sexual preference does not matter to me. But it’s what’s in the heart, and my family and I try to live by that.”
Deen’s friend, Juda Engelmayer, said after Deen recorded the first statement, she said it was not what she wanted to say.
“She picked up her own handi-cam and recorded it herself without a production team present,” said Engelmayer, who was with Deen at the time.
Engelmayer is senior vice president of 5W Public Relations but doesn’t officially represent Deen.
Deen and her brother are being sued for alleged sexual and racial harassment by a former manager of Deen’s restaurants in Savannah, Georgia.
Lisa T. Jackson’s lawsuit alleges that Deen and Bubba Hier committed numerous acts of violence, discrimination and racism that resulted in the end of her five-year tenure at Deen’s Lady & Sons and Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House eateries in Savannah.
Deen’s lawyer has called the allegations false.
“Contrary to media reports, Ms. Deen does not condone or find the use of racial epithets acceptable,” her lawyer, Bill Franklin said. “She is looking forward to her day in court.”
The language in question was revealed recently as part of a deposition of Deen by Jackson’s lawyers in May.
Jackson lawyer: “Miss Deen, have you told racial jokes?”
Deen: “No, not racial.”
Jackson lawyer: “Have you ever used the ‘N word’ yourself?”
Deen: “Yes, of course.”
Deen testified that she probably used the racial slur when talking to her husband about “when a black man burst into the bank that I was working at and put a gun to my head.”
“I didn’t feel real favorable towards him,” she said, referring to the robber.
Jackson lawyer: “Have you used it since then?”
Deen: “I’m sure I have, but it’s been a very long time.”
Deen said she couldn’t remember other contexts in which she used the slur, but “maybe in repeating something that was said to me.”
“But that’s just not a word that we use as time has gone on,” she said. “Things have changed since the ’60s in the South. And my children and my brother object to that word being used in any cruel or mean behavior.”
Deen’s company issued a statement Thursday saying the chef used the epithet, but in a “quite different time” in American history.
“She was born 60 years ago when America’s South had schools that were segregated, different bathrooms, different restaurants and Americans rode in different parts of the bus. This is not today.”
Carolyn Sung reported from New York; Chelsea J. Carter reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Nick Valencia, Devon Sayers, Meridith Edwards and Alan Duke contributed to this report.