Paula Deen dissolved into tears during her appearance Wednesday on NBC's Today show with Matt Lauer. The celebrity chef told Lauer she was not a racist, but image experts say she'll have to work harder to convince the public.
The empire of Paula Deen is crumbling.
are among the latest companies cutting business ties with the celebrity chef, and that it will no longer publish her cookbooks.
Deen came under fire after to using the N-word.
How can a public figure recover from a race-related, public relations disaster?
I sought out expert advice in Washington, D.C., where the cycle of scandal and redemption is an industry all its own.
Aiding The 'Drowning Victim'
First up is Dan Hill, president of the D.C. communications firm Ervin/Hill Strategy. He's the kind of crisis manager whom a public figure like Deen might hire to help find her way out of a scandal.
Paula Deen's Hired Help
that according to "an executive familiar with the matter," Deen has brought on crisis manager Judy Smith, the real-life inspiration for the .
Besides corporations, Hill mainly works with three types of individual clients.
"I work with the wrongly accused," he says, as well as "people who know they made a mistake and want to fix it, and others that see a mistake on the horizon that might become public and want to make sure they handle it the right way."
But Hill says most clients who first come for his aid fall into one big category: the drowning victim, panicked and flailing for help. Often his first advice to them is to breathe, literally.
"We've all experienced the anxiety of making a mistake," he says. "Few of us have felt having that mistake broadcast to hundreds of millions of people and how that makes you feel."
Deen seemed to be drowning in her own tears by the end of her , her first public interview after controversy erupted over her using the N-word.
Hill says there's no silver bullet to fix Deen's situation.
"I think I'm one of the best in my field. I can't help her get out of this in a week," he says. "This is the kind of thing that will maybe take years — decades — for her to overcome."
The timing for recovery from a race-related controversy is especially tricky, Hill says, because "it has to do with your character, your values, and your belief systems."
Becoming The Next Comeback
Eric Dezenhall, CEO of Dezenhall Resources, has been managing crises for three decades. He also co-wrote the book .
But even this veteran crisis manager admits race-related cases are "notoriously difficult to get out of." He says the problem with these controversies is history — hundreds of years of history in which feelings are so deep that apologies and other conventional tactics often don't work.
"Parsing the allegation and trying to twist yourself into pretzels is not going to be your vindication," warns Dezenhall, adding that clients accused of saying something racist should not expect to encounter nuance in the court of public opinion.
But you shouldn't be defeatist either, says crisis manager Michael Frisby, president of Frisby & Associates.
"A percentage of people are going to question the authenticity of everything that you do. You're under a microscope," he says.
Still, he would advise clients tackling race-related scandals to take steps to build relationships with the communities they offended.
"You need to meet with them. You need to talk with them," he says. "You basically need to get their forgiveness."
Winning over entire communities may be an unreasonable expectation, Frisby notes.
But with time, genuine self-reflection and support from high-profile community leaders, the tide of negative public opinion may eventually begin to turn.
Frisby says sometimes there are silver linings for scandals in America.
NPR: Obama’s Climate Strategy Doesn’t Require Congressional Approval – “President Obama unveiled a sweeping plan Tuesday designed to deal with climate change. For the first time, carbon emissions from power plants would be regulated. The policy, which can be implemented by the administration without congressional approval, calls for a broad range of actions, including steps to deal with extreme weather events that are already occurring.”
The New York Times: Mandela’s Illness Weighs On Obama’s Africa Trip – “Mr. Mandela has long been a beacon for Mr. Obama, who recounted again on Thursday how the revolution unleashed by Mr. Mandela a world away had inspired his own activisim. Friends of Mr. Obama say that for him and many of his contemporaries, the fight against apartheid was the equivalent of the civil rights movement of an earlier generation.”
If memory serves me right, I remember that the first and only person during George W. Bush’s administration to go to jail for insider trading was Martha Stewart. And if one were to research this was due mostly to the fact that Stewart was/is female. No males, who committed much more heinous crimes, like Scooter Libby and various other Neocons, got away with slaps on the wrist, if not doing time at all. Now these same forces are out to punish Paula Deen in order to endear themselves to Black people, who the GOP and T-Party as the shits that they are.
Is this paranoia on my part, deformation, or is it triangulation of the forces persecuting Deen. All of Deen’s loyal sponsors and publisher are dropping her on “hear-say” evidence of her racism. Yet at the same time Governor Rick Perry, a Southerner, family owned a hunting lodge for years called Nigger Head, and all was well until the last days his presidential primary debate when it was disclosed, and the GOP accidentally let the world see, what a buffoon he was, and dropped him as a viable candidate, but he still remains the popular governor of the state of Texas.
As for Deen’s sponsors bailing on her. Each and every one of these international income tax dodgers belongs to the US Chamber of Commerce http://youtu.be/DNdfV0ZEUfY . This is the organization that acts in conjunction with the American Enterprise Institute to boycott every employment program that is proposed by President Obama and the Democrats in Congress. Now these corporations that represent the 1% want to secure the vote of African Americans by persecuting another woman. Some may say my logic is off, because Deen herself is a member of the 1% Club but—as member of the GOP, the sponsors see Deen, a female, as disposable.
Note how the South sees itself as inferior by denying its own culture. The Southern Aristocracy wants to deny Paula Deen like Peter did Christ by insisting that she does not represent it or any parts of it. My question is why that same class didn’t deny Justin Wilson and his New Orleans cooking and his sloppy down home drunkenness: “That am good!”
I hope my fellow African American citizens will understand that those who want to defame Paula Deen are not friends of Black peoples, but are the enemies of the State because it is them that at the root of the financial and employment problems the entire American 99% population, White, black, red, brown and yellow are facing today.