Paula Deen has officially become a butter-slathered pariah. No one wants her. Every day brings new revelations about her history of racism, and every day brings a fresh firing for Paula. Last Friday, Paula was fired from the Food Network. Over the weekend, QVC put her on notice (but they didn’t fire her… YET). And now Smithfield is all “Paula who? Butter what?” When your ham endorsement falls, it’s time to pack it in, Paula.
Paula Deen’s racial slur scandal is costing her an endorsement deal with Smithfield, the pork company that sold a ham with her name and face on it.
“Smithfield condemns the use of offensive and discriminatory language and behavior of any kind,” Smithfield says in a statement. “Therefore, we are terminating our partnership with Paula Deen. Smithfield is determined to be an ethical food industry leader and it is important that our values and those of our spokespeople are properly aligned.” Deen’s deal with Smithfield was announced in September 2006.
“Smithfield was a key deal for her empire,” Food Network biographer Allen Salkin tells PEOPLE. “In addition to paying her handsomely as an endorser, the ham company helped her charitable image by delivering truckloads of meat to food banks in her name.”
There is a lot more at stake than Deen’s deal with Smithfield. Her deals with QVC, where she sells cookware, publisher Random House, Inc., which has a book by Deen coming out in October, diabetes drug makers Novo Nordisk and Sears Holdings have all said they’re monitoring the situation. Add Harrah’s Hotels and Casinos to that list. The company, which has Paula Deen Restaurants in their casinos released a statement: “Paula Deen has acknowledged using a racial slur in the past. As a company with a longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion, we are deeply disturbed by what we are reading in the press and strongly object to any use of racial epithets. We will continue to monitor the situation.”
Deen’s cookware is also for sale at Target, Walmart, J.C. Penney and Kmart stores.
God, I had forgotten how far-reaching Paula’s empire is/was. And that’s what is more interesting to me, by the way – it’s not that I’m trying to give Paula a pass on her racist behavior (which is more extensive than previously believed), it’s just that I’m fascinated by the business side of this, and the crisis management side of scandals and controversies. But let’s do a summary of some of the other stuff going around:
*In a newly-rediscovered/re-analyzed video from last year, Paula appeared on camera for a discussion with the New York Times (in front of an audience). Paula was asked about how her ancestors were slave owners and she said her great-grandfather killed himself when his slaves were set free, “Between the death of his son and losing all the workers, he went out into his barn and shot himself because he couldn’t deal with those kind of changes…Back then, black folk were such an integral part of our lives. They were like our family, and for that reason we didn’t see ourselves as prejudiced.”
*Meanwhile, Radar has a story from one of the former employees who filed an Equal Employment Opportunity & Diversity complaint against Paula. The man’s name is Sheldon J. Ervin, and he was a cook at Paula’s brother’s restaurant – you can read Radar’s full story here. The basic gist is that Paula and Bubba had all of their black employees work special events without real pay – Paula and Bubba “paid” them in beer and alcohol. And Ervin says Paula was obsessed with dressing black people as Antebellum slave-servers, with white dinner jackets and black slacks. And if the men complained or asked to be paid for the work, their jobs were threatened. Ugh. That’s awful.
*And finally, Paula finally decided to get her act together and sit down for an interview. But it’s still awful, because she chose to sit down with Matt Lauer!! That’s going to suck, I’m sorry. Matt Lauer is either going to be super-aggressive and gross, or he’s going to go easy on her and not call her out when she’s being casually racist. But I guess Paula thought she needed to do Today first because she backed out of the Today interview last Friday.
If I could just have a word about the South, about racism and about stereotypes… I think Paula represents a certain kind of older Southern lady – she’s a woman who thinks of herself as “politely prejudiced” or something, but in her mind, she’s not that bad… probably because she knows tons of people who are way more racist. I think Paula’s racism is casual, and for the most part she’s oblivious to her prejudices, and I’m reminded of that “banality of evil” comment. Her “casual racism” is seen more in her speech, in the way she talks about the old South or whatever. The bigger problem (in my mind) is the asinine, bigoted, disrespectful, illegal and awful way she treated her restaurant employees.
Photos courtesy of WENN.
Paula Deen fired from Smithfield, more stories of her racism come out