Paula Deen loses Food Network deal after asking "please forgive me" for n-word controversy
After a couple of days controversy over her admission in a lawsuit deposition that she once used the n-word and tolerated racist jokes, celebrity chef Paula Deen has released two different videos begging fans to "please forgive me."
But the first video may not have had the intended effect; after it was posted, the Food Network announced it would not renew her contract when it expires at the month's end.
Because she doesn't admit exactly what she's done wrong in either message -- there is a lawsuit still pending alleging sexual and racial harassment by her and her brother, after all -- it's unlikely Deen will change many minds.
And even as fans rally to her defense, many seem to misunderstand why she's in society's doghouse in the first place.
She should have learned from history: The only way out of this mess is to admit everything while begging for forgiveness.
Dean first posted a 45-second message to YouTube mostly saying "please forgive me." Then that video was taken down and a longer message was uploadedblaming the media for distorting her story and insisting her family was not prejudiced.
Saying she was "physically not able" to fulfill a scheduled appearance this morning on the Today show, she insisted "your color of your skin, your religion, you sexual preference does not matter to me." But since there was no Matt Lauer available to ask follow up questions, Deen offered no specifics on her supposed transgressions.
As somebody who writes about race, history and media quite often, I was surprised people were surprised that the 66-year-old southern chef admitted using the n-word in the past and admired the beauty of a “plantation-style” wedding reception with black wait staff who would be reminiscent of slaves.
It should no longer be surprising that people of a certain age have racist actions in their past. But what matters is how you act in the modern world, when those ghosts rise up to confront you.
So far, Deen has earned a serious “F” on that score, first reacting during a deposition and in statements from her attorneys as if there was nothing wrong with racist jokes, or using the n-word years ago or longing to set a wedding party in a setting which would remind many of the days of slavery.
Later, in her apologies, Deen fails to address what she's actually apologizing for. For using the n-word? For tolerating racist and anti-semitic jokes? For wanting a wedding party based on a Civil War-era plantation? For getting caught?
Today, Deen surprised Today show host Matt Lauer and many others by ducking out of a planned appeared on the show. “Hoping to get more info on the Paula Deen situation soon,” Lauer tweeted to fans this morning. “Very confusing.”
Her lawyer’s statement, released Thursday, wasn’t much better: “During a deposition where she swore to tell the truth, Ms. Deen recounted having used a racial epithet in the past, speaking largely about a time in American history which was quite different than today. 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.”
Fans posted hundreds of messages on the Food Network's Facebook page mostly in support of Deen, criticizing the cable channel for firing her.
This is wrapped up in a syndrome I’ve talked about before here; it’s tough to admit when you indulge stereotypes and prejudice, particularly when you see yourself as a good person, you’re in the middle of a lawsuit and certainly when a multi-million dollar celebrity brand is on the line.
But history teaches us the only way out of such messes. You admit what you did, apologize and vow to do better, making sure you live up to that claim.
That’s what former Alabama Gov. George Wallace did, renouncing years of segregationist politics. It’s what newspapers such as the Tallahassee Democrat did, admitting that their support of segregation and coverage of the civil rights movmement was wrong 50 years after the fact.
The only Hail Mary left which might save Deen's career is twofold: settle the lawsuit to remove the threat and sit-down with someone fair but sympathetic who can let her present a real apology, if she chooses.
I'm thinking only the Queen of All Media, Oprah Winfrey, could handle this task, helping Deen deliver a real apology and then give her a spot on the Oprah Winfrey Network cable channel.
It’s never too late to admit a mistake and atone for it. And it may be the only way to save her brand, regardless of how the lawsuit goes.
The Daily Show weighed in Thursday night, wondering if Deen suffers from Type 1 or Type 2 racism, suggesting a "N----rette patch" like for smokers. See it below: