Fans Beg Food Network and Retailers: Free Paula, Pass the Butter

By Devon Glenn 

Puzzling, but true: Paula Deen’s social media followers are clamoring for the Food Network and retailers that sell Deen’s merchandise to reinstate the cooking show host, even though she’s admitted to using racial slurs.

The proof is in the transcript of a deposition that Deen gave as part of a discrimination suit brought on by a former employee. When asked if she’d ever used the N-Word, Deen said, “Yes, of course.”

Deen insists that she’s not a racist; she had only used the forbidden word decades ago when a bank robber was holding a gun against her head. She begged for forgiveness in a video she posted on YouTube, followed by a tearful appearance on NBC’s “Today” show.

In general, public reaction has been mixed. A USA Today poll found that a small majority of readers sided with Deen: 3,103 respondents said “she should be forgiven,” while 2,953 said “I can’t support her.”

Food Network’s Facebook page has seen a drop in the number of new Likes per day, but conversations on the page have nearly doubled since the controversy began, according to metrics from our sibling site PageData.

Paula Deen’s page, however, has seen a sharp spike in the number of Likes being added per day as well as a lift in the number of conversations.

Unfortunately for Deen, her apologies were not enough to save her comfort food recipe business. Over the last week, Deen has watched her empire crumble as Target, Home Depot, Walmart, Caesars Entertainment, and pork producer Smithfield Foods have severed ties with the celebrity chef to avoid being associated with racism. As of Tuesday, her relationship with QVC still hung in the balance.

Even the drug company Novo Nordisk, which helped turn Deen’s last PR nightmare of having Type-2 Diabetes into a teachable moment, has suspended its plans to use her as a spokesperson for the injectable, non-insulin drug Victoza.

On Twitter and Facebook, fans are now fighting back with threats to boycott the companies that have sided against the TV chef. Using the hashtag #freepaula, #butter, and similar tags, Deen’s Twitter supporters have revealed an assortment of reasons why these companies were wrong to punish her and why they want her back on the air. See a sampling below or click here to read it on Storify.