Paula Deen’s empire crumbles further amid allegations of racial slurs

June 25, 2013

After admitting in a deposition last week that she has used racial slurs and made jokes that denigrate Blacks, Paula Deen now faces allegations that she and people in her restaurants have routinely made jokes and slurs about blacks, women and other groups.

As The New York Times reports, Smithfield Foods, whose hams Deen has endorsed since 2006, severed its relationship with her on Monday. Last Friday, after Deen was deposed in a federal discrimination lawsuit, the Food Network announced it was terminating her contract and immediately pulled her two shows.

At the center of the lawsuit is Lisa T. Jackson, who for several years helped Deen manage her restaurants. The suit contends that racial slurs were common at Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House in Savannah, Ga., which is largely run by Deen’s brother, Earl W. Hiers.

Deen and her brother have long contended that Jackson was bent on revenge and had demanded $1.2 million before filing the suit, threatening to take her charges public if the money was not paid. A lawyer for Hiers argued that Jackson was pursuing race-based claims even though she is white.

As the Times reports, Deen still has fans. In her hometown of Albany, Ga., plans remain under way for a Paula Deen museum. Billie Jo Fletcher, a museum organizer and restaurateur, said, “We stand behind what Paula represents, and that’s Southern hospitality.”

Meanwhile, according to FOX News, the fate of her cookware collection is also up in the air. A representative for Sears Holdings, which sells Deen’s products at Kmart and Sears, told FOX that the company “is exploring next steps as they pertain to Ms. Deen’s products” and Target is “evaluating the situation.”

QVC, the home-shopping corporation, is mulling its future with Deen. The network sells her branded cookbooks and cookware.

“QVC shares the concerns being raised around the unfortunate Paula Deen situation. QVC does not tolerate discriminatory behavior,” the company said in a statement. “We are closely monitoring these events and the ongoing litigation. We are reviewing our business relationship with Ms. Deen, and in the meantime, we have no immediate plans to have her appear on QVC.”

On Wednesday, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said that it ended its relationship with Deen while Caesars Entertainment Corp. announced that it had been “mutually decided” with Deen to remove her name from its restaurants in Joliet, Ill.; Tunica, Miss.; Cherokee, N.C.; and Elizabeth, Ind. At the same time, her representatives released letters of support from nine companies that do business with Deen and promised to continue, according to published reports. — Greg Beaubien


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