Chef Paula Deen Under Fire After Admitting To Racial Slurs

June 20, 2013 3:00 PM

3 min 13 sec

A lawsuit accuses Southern chef Paula Dean of using racial slurs in the workplace. Deen says she has used a slur regarding African-Americans, but not in a long time. The case is bringing out some surprising admissions.

Racial Slur Puts Paula Deen's Empire At Risk

June 27, 2013 4:00 AM

The world's largest retailer Wal-Mart is joining the list of companies severing ties with southern food star Paula Deen. The Savannah, Georgia-based cook and restaurateur has been on the front burner since an admission she used a racial slur in the past.



How To Prove You're Not A Racist

June 29, 2013 5:18 AM


3 min 44 sec

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.

Peter Kramer/AP

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.

After all, who doesn't like a really good comeback story?








Week In The News: Supreme Court, Immigration Reform, Obama In Africa

With Anthony Brooks in for Tom Asbhrook

Gay marriage and more at the High Court. President Obama to Africa. A Cold War over Edward Snowden. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.



In the news this week: The Senate passes major immigration reform, but House Republicans call it dead on arrival.

Also, major Supreme Court decisions on gay marriage, voting rights and affirmative action.

President Obama pushes a big plan to cut greenhouse gasses.

NFL star Erin Hernandez charged with murder, Paula Dean with racism.

A filibustering Texas lawmaker talks for 11 straight hours.

And Nelso

"Equal justice under law," reads the text on the facade of the U.S. Supreme Court. (Mike Renlund/Flickr)

“Equal justice under law,” reads the text on the facade of the U.S. Supreme Court. (Mike Renlund/Flickr)

n Mandela clings to life.

This hour, On Point: Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.


Gerald Seib, Washington bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, where he writes their Capital Journal column. (@GeraldFSeib)

William McKenzie, editorial columnist for The Dallas Morning News. (@Bill_McKenzie)

Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst.

From The Reading List


Slate: Supreme Court 2013: The Year In Review

The Associated Press: Obama: No Wheeling Or Dealing To Extradite Snowden – “Obama said the damage to U.S. national security has already been done and his top focus now is making sure it can’t happen again.”

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.”

WBUR: Federal Grand Jury Indicts Marathon Bombing Suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev – “The indictment charges the 19-year-old with using a weapon of mass destruction and bombing a place of public use, resulting in death, among other charges.”




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 .  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.





Views: 106

Comment by mary gravitt on June 29, 2013 at 2:06pm

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.


Comment by koshersalaami on June 30, 2013 at 5:16am
A novel theory ad to why she's being thrown under the bus. You could be right.
Comment by Rodney Roe on June 30, 2013 at 6:30am

As you point out in the title, this is all a manifestation of corporate hypocrisy.  Corporations have no conscience, only a profit motive.  Any move is made in an effort to maximize profit.  Corporations prefer not to use people.  When they must, they do only what is required by law, not what is the human, compassionate thing to do.  All corporations are governed by "group think".  The actions of Corporation B can be predicted by the actions of Corporation A.  Corporations often share board members and so the actions look alike for the same reasons that the actions of the royal families of Europe looked alike, most  of them were related to each other and felt that they were entitled to use, misue, and abuse the common man.  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is made up of our own corporate aristocracy.

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on June 30, 2013 at 1:44pm


In any case Justice Scalia's remark that voting rights are privileges for people of color seems far worse than anything the foolish and, sure, racist, Ms. Deen said.

Comment by Rodney Roe on June 30, 2013 at 5:07pm

An interesting discussion would be why those in power want to maintain political correctness making some topics and certain words taboo.  How do they gain by making the "N" word off limits?  My thought is that by pretending that racism doesn't exist, racism is preserved, because an open discussion between races can not take place. 

My thought is that the "N" word should be laid to rest forever by everyone, but before that happens a frank discussion about how white stereotypes about blacks hurt both themselves and blacks, albeit in different ways.  Also, the use of "N" as a term of affection from one black to another - while forbidding whites to use it - maintains a wall between the two groups. 

Paula Dean seems to be really clueless about the whole issue.  She's sort of like your dog when it gets yelled at.  She knows you're upset but doesn't really understand what she has done wrong.  She needs a sensitivity class.  I don't think that will save her brand, though.

Meanwhile, business will continue to pay lip service to equality while practicing inequality in hiring between races, pay for women versus men, and in any other way that will make the quarter's earnings look good.

Comment by Rodney Roe on June 30, 2013 at 5:12pm

...and, Paula's last name is Deen, not Dean as spell check kept telling me.

Comment by Myriad on July 2, 2013 at 2:54pm

I am not sure about Rodney's idea that it's the people in power who want to maintain PC and gain by making the n-word taboo.  But I do agree that by pretending racism doesn't exist, racism is preserved, and the recent SC decision seems to fit into that.

I don't think blacks using the term while forbidding whites to do so is a problem.  It's the way gay people use certain terms among themselves that straight people are ill-advised to use.  I don't see that maintaining a wall.  To take a personal example:  If I write a post about how stupid I am, that's my privilege.  If YOU call me stupid, fuck off.  No?  When whites say n-----, it's a power trip.  When blacks say it among themselves, it can be many things, I suppose, but none of them are saying I'M SUPERIOR WHITE PERSON AND YOU'RE A PIECE OF CRAP.

But I do like your characterization of the hapless Deen as being like a baffled dog.

And Mary, I think you may have something in your idea of Deen being a disposable sacrifice.  Certainly Walmart et al aren't acting out of sensitivity and morality!


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