Ahh, Paula Deen. Whether you’re a fan of butter, good ol’ southern cooking and the once-voluptuous Paula Deen, or not, I’m sure you’re familiar with the public relations crisis that just keeps giving.
Last week, Ms. Deen faced major criticism for statements made in a deposition for a discrimination lawsuit by one of her former employees. The story originated with The Enquirer on the morning of June 19, and was later confirmed by the Huffington Post (which obtained copies of a deposition transcript), that afternoon.
In that document, Ms. Deen admitted that she had tolerated racist jokes and had made racist remarks. She mentioned that most of these jokes were about Jewish people, black people, gay people and "red necks." Some reports indicate that Ms. Deen also tolerated pornography in the workplace.
Ok, admittedly not great. But things went from bad to worse when the “Twitterverse” got hold of these juicy tidbits. The buzz was so ferocious that on June 19, the hash tag #PaulasBestDishes was trending on Twitter.
On the evening of June 20, Paula was skewered on numerous satirical shows, including The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. On the morning of June 21, Paula was scheduled to appear on The Today Show with Matt Lauer to field some (likely, soft-ball) questions. She bails, citing exhaustion.
That afternoon, Food Network issued a public statement indicating they would be dropping Ms. Deen – and all three of her shows – effective immediately. Well-known companies, from Smithfield (on June 24), Walmart and Caesar’s (June 26), Novo Nordisk and Target (June 27), QVC, Kmart, Sears, Walgreens, JCPenny and her own publisher (June 28) dropped Paula’s endorsement deals.
While several big-name celebrities have come to Paula’s rescue (Jimmy Carter and Ann Rice, to name a few), the damage is done. Paula Deen will likely never again be the queen of butter.
The interesting thing, for me, is: How did everyone seem to think that Ms. Deen’s reputation for Southern hospitality and honesty wasn’t long-tarnished before these allegations surfaced? Doesn’t anyone remember that “little” diabetes cover-up?
I hate to be the bad guy here, but daggonit, Paula has made it hard for me to say anything in her defense.
Where were those apologies three days earlier? For that matter, why were there three different apologies (none of which were particularly heart-felt or convincing)? Where was her crisis management team? Now, that’s a group whose contract should definitely be terminated!