At the root of Paula Deen’s incredible fall from home fried culinary grace is a lawsuit filed by a former employee at Deen’s Savannah, Georgia, restaurant, who accused Deen and her brother Bubba of racial and sexual harassment while working for them.
“While Paula and Bubba did make some pretty damaging confessions in their depositions, what they admitted to only scratches the surface of what actually goes on in their daily lives,” said an insider.
Deen was apparently overcome by a burning desire to throw a lavish, slavery-themed plantation type wedding for her brother, Bubba.
Deen’s wedding plans included servants she described as a bunch of tap dancing “little ni**ers wearing long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties. Now that would be a true Southern wedding, wouldn’t it,” said Deen laughing.
In her recent TV interview with Matt Lauer, Deen insisted she used a racist epithet only once, after she was robbed at gunpoint in 1986. “That statement contradicted her testimony in the deposition, where she said she was sure she had used the word since then, adding that it’s been a very long time.”
Deen lost two major corporate contracts with the Food Network and Smithfield Foods, after her deposition in a workplace-discrimination lawsuit came to widespread attention.
Wednesday, June 26
Just hours after Deen made an emotional appearance on the “Today” show, insisting that she was not and never had been a racist, Home Depot said it would stop carrying Paula Deen products in its kitchen and cookware departments.
Then in a statement Wednesday afternoon, Walmart said, “We are ending our relationship with Paula Deen Enterprises and we will not place new orders beyond those already committed.”
The New York Times noted there are currently 215 Paula Deen-branded items on the company’s Web site, from aprons and salad dressings to reading glasses, china and a new line of “finishing butters.”
And also on Wednesday, the New York Times reported Caesars Entertainment announced that it had severed ties with Ms. Deen by “mutual agreement.”
There are Paula Deen-themed restaurants at Caesars properties in Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina and Illinois. “Caesars intends to rebrand the restaurants in the coming months,” the company said.
“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, the company’s executive vice president of communications and government affairs.
According to Fox News, on Thursday, Target announced it was severing ties with Deen.
“We have made a decision to phase out the Paula Deen merchandise in our stores as well as on Target.com,” a company rep said. “Once the merchandise is sold out, we will not be replenishing inventory.”
Diabetes drug maker Novo Nordisk also said Thursday it and Deen have “mutually agreed to suspend our patient education activities for now.”
Fox reports the fate of her magazine “Cooking with Paula Deen” remains unknown. Its Alabama-based publisher Hoffman Media told a local news outlet that it “does not condone discrimination of any kind,” adding “we are not in a position to discuss her magazine and contract right now.”
QVC said in its statement that “People deserve second chances.” Home-shopping network QVC, owned by Liberty Media Corp, has taken a wait-and-see approach with Deen, saying it was putting a “pause” on her involvement with the network.
“For now, we have decided to take a pause,” QVC president and CEO Mike George said in a statement. “Paula won’t be appearing on any upcoming broadcasts and we will phase out her product assortment on our online sales channels over the next few months.”
Reuters points out that some companies partnered with Deen have stood behind her, including Landies Candies and Sandridge Food Corp, which said it is “proud to provide unwavering support for Paula Deen.”
“Deen’s comeback may come down to her loyal fans, many of whom have come out in force on social media to voice their support, some threatening in Facebook and Twitter posts to boycott the companies dropping the chef.”
And Deen’s annual “Paula Deen Cruise” on board the “Mariner of the Seas” has been flooded with so many calls, the cruise is adding an extra departure in 2014. (Editor’s note…we checked Royal Caribbean’s twitter feed and they denounce having a relationship with Paula Deen as per the tweet above).
“Due to so many requests from Paula’s fans in the past we are actually planning two cruises for 2014 and look forward to both,” said a rep for the cruise. “It’s always an amazing time with Paula, her family and fans. If she goes – we go.”
Deen is also still scheduled to make appearances at the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show in Houston and Dallas in September, and in Washington, DC in November. She remains a key personality on the website with tickets to see her specifically ranging from $95 to $500.
“Paula Deen has been a friend of The Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show for many years. She has apologized and we are taking her apology at her word and moving forward accordingly,” the show’s rep said.
“The Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show does not condone or believe in the use of derogatory slurs by anyone. This is a nation of forgiveness and second chances. In that spirit we intend to go forward with the MetroCooking Shows in Houston, Dallas and Washington, DC as planned with Paula as a presenter.”
Random House is slated to release “Paula Deen’s New Testament: 250 Favorite Recipes, All Lightened Up” in October. The cookbook, ranked in the 1,500s on Monday, moved all the way to No. 1 on Thursday.
Update 6/29 – QVC is “taking a pause” from Paula Deen. Sears Holdings Corp which owns Sears and Kmart will phase out all products associated with the Paula Deen brand. Ballantine Books has canceled the publication of “Paula Deen’s New Testament: 250 Favorite Recipes, All Lightened Up” even though it is a #1 best seller on Amazon before even being published.
Update 7/1 – Paula Deen is attempting to utilize the Supreme Court’s Prop 8 ruling to have the discrimination suit dismissed. It is said that Deen has lost a total of $12.5 million dollars due to the scandal.
Update 7/5 - Paula Deen drops her agent, Barry Weiner.
Update 7/11 - Paula Deen fires the Oliver Maner Law Firm law firm and hires Patricia Glaser.
Update 7/17 – Members of the Butter for Paula Deen group send butter wrappers to companies showing their love and support for the cheflebrity.
Update 7/24 - Paula Deen’s son to compete in Iron Chef and Paula Deen’s Cook, Dora Charles, tells all on The New York Times, including how she worked for Deen for 22 years for just $10 per hour, even after Deen became rich and famous. She also confirmed that Deen used racial slurs.
Update 7/26 - Paula Deen denies new racist claims by Dora Charles on the New York Times.
Update 8/7 - Paula Deen turns down Dancing with the Stars.
Update 8/12 - U.S. District Court Judge William T. Moore Jr dismissed the racial claims by former employee Lisa Jackson in the Paula Deen lawsuit.