ATLANTA, June 24, 2013 – The city and the entire state of Georgia, for that matter, are seemingly buzzing about Paula Deen, the celebrity cook who turned her brand of Southern cooking into an empire.
Deen’s contract with Food Network was not renewed “after news broke that Deen admitted in a deposition that was part of a lawsuit that she had, in the past, used racial epithets and tolerated racial jokes in the workplace,” as USA Today reported. According to a report in the Savannah Morning News, Deen on May 17 “admitted using the ‘N’ word in the past but insists it was ‘a very long time ago.’”
Deen, the proprietor of the popular Lady & Sons restaurant in downtown Savannah, has been a fixture on Food Network for more than a decade. Her celebrity status has expanded over the years with a variety of endorsements and products, and her two sons – Jamie and Bobby Deen – have grown into celebrities themselves.
“I think it is very unfortunate. What she has basically said is she used language from her childhood growing up in the past, but we all have to change,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed told “Meet the Press,” according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle.
“So I think folks are going to be hearing what she has to say over the next few weeks. I think she has apologized once, and she is going to continue to do that. It is very unfortunate and totally unacceptable,” Reed said.
According to news reports, business at the ever-popular Lady & Sons restaurant this weekend remained steady with many fans coming out to show their support for Deen. Supporters also flocked to social media sites not only to show their support for Deen, but to criticize the Food Network for its decision.
“I get it, believe me,” The New York Times quoted one black restaurant patron as saying. “But what’s hard for people to understand is that she didn’t mean it as racist. It sounds bad, but that’s not what’s in her heart. She’s just from another time.”
Even before this latest episode, Deen was no stranger to controversy. She was often criticized for using certain ingredients – mainly fats and salts – even after she was diagnosed with Diabetes.
But, those complaints didn’t eliminate her fan base, especially in the south. Last month, residents in Deen’s native hometown of Albany, including her ex-husband, said they were planning to open a museum dedicated to Deen.
Despite the outpouring of support in recent days, it remains to be seen how her empire, which includes Cooking with Paula Deen magazine, survives this latest controversy.
“Paula Deen will survive but she will never be whole again,” USA Today quoted Howard Bragman, vice chairman of Reputation.com. “She will never make as much money, she will never have the respect that she once had; there are people that will never be in business with her again.”
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