Like so many of her ingredients, Food Network host Paula Deen has been canned.
The celebrity chef's admission that she uses ethnic slurs in a deposition obtained by The National Enquirer appears to have been the straw that broke the camel's back for the network. Deen put a video apologizing for … something … on YouTube earlier today (excerpt: "I want to apologize to everybody for the wrong that I've done. I want to learn and grow from this"). But the incident for which (one hopes) she is apologizing was more than a regrettable slip of the tongue. That would seem to be the end of Paula's Home Cooking.
Deen is currently being sued by former employee Lisa Jackson for a number of abuses at Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House in Savanna, Ga., a restaurant owned by the chef and her brother, Bubba Hiers. The lawsuit alleges that Hiers in particular harassed the plaintiff and other female staff repeatedly and kept a steady stream of porn available on his work computer. The suit also included allegations regarding Deen's own conduct, including stunning accusations of casual racism, including that Hiers and Deen required black employees to use a separate bathroom.
Among the charges was the description of a particular wedding Deen fantasized about planning, which, in her own words, recalled "a restaurant that my husband and I had recently visited" where "the whole entire wait staff was middle-aged black men, and they had on beautiful white jackets with a black bow tie. I mean, it was really impressive. And I remember saying I would love to have servers like that, I said, but I would be afraid somebody would misinterpret." When Deen was asked if she might have slipped and used an ethnic slur to describe the waiters, she said, "No, because that's not what these men were."
Deen's rep offered the TV personality's age as a defense for her alleged behavior. “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." Deen is 66; she would have been 7 when Brown v. Board of Education passed and is younger than both Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks. She would not have graduated high school when the Civil Rights Act passed.
If this had been the only time Deen had attracted negative attention, perhaps the network would have waited for the storm to blow over and accepted a (hopefully less mealy mouthed) apology. But it wasn't. The already-controversial host has been pilloried in the past for pushing unhealthy treats, endorsing Smithfield Hams (which found itself in hot water for alleged animal abuses), and signing on as a spokesperson for an anti-diabetes drug (Deen herself was diagnosed with type II diabetes last year). Longtime detractor Anthony Bourdain's response:
Thinking of getting into the leg-breaking business, so I can profitably sell crutches later.
— Anthony Bourdain (@Bourdain) January 17, 2012
Food Network's entire statement: “Food Network will not renew Paula Deen's contract when it expires at the end of this month.”