Paula Deen, the Southern belle, Food Network star and queen of the deep fryer, might add another title to her list: racist.
The celebrity chef who’s best known for her love of double-buttered, bacon-wrapped anything may finally be fried: She’s admitted to using the N-word, to wanting to throw a “Southern plantation-style wedding” and making anti-Semitic jokes.
In a videotaped deposition released yesterday, filmed during proceedings investigating a $1.2-million (U.S.) discrimination lawsuit against Deen, she says she’s used the word multiple times – including when relaying the story of how an African-American man held her at gunpoint.
The full transcript is available here, but here are some of the most cringe-worthy highlights:
Deen: Most – most jokes are about Jewish people, rednecks, black folks. Most jokes target – I don’t know. I didn’t make up the jokes, I don’t know. I can’t – I don’t know.
Deen: They usually target, though, a group. Gays or straights, black, redneck, you know, I just don’t know.
Her company released a statement today in Deen’s defence, justifying her behaviour with her upbringing, like you’d do with a senile grandparent: “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.”
Another statement from her lawyer deadpans: “Contrary to media reports, Ms. Deen does not condone or find the use of racial epithets acceptable.”
Of course, the Twitterverse responded to Deen’s bigotry in typical fashion: sarcastic wit.
The hashtag #paulasbestdishes quickly became a medium for funny recipe titles with a pound of racism, “Kale and Kabbage Kasserole (KKK for short) #PaulasBestDishes “ tweeted brokeymcpoverty. “Separate But Equal Light & Dark Meat” replied @jeffuhz.
Deen has certainly proved herself a durable celebrity figure despite numerous controversies. (Remember when she painted herself as health-conscious for a moment, then proceeded to have her face plastered on butter?) But bigotry and outright racism shouldn’t be forgiven – not in 2013.
Even for her biggest fans (I use that term figuratively, but possibly literally as well) admitting to frequent use of one of the most offensive words in the English language should be too much stomach, especially given the history of racism in the American South.
What do you think: Is Deen’s Southern background any excuse for such behaviour?