July 2, 2013 at 10:39 AM ET
The woman who sued Paula Deen, bringing to light revelations that have seriously hurt the celeb chef's business empire, said Monday that her “lawsuit has never been about the N-word.”
In a statement to TODAY.com, Lisa Jackson said that the real purpose of her lawsuit was “to address Ms. Deen’s patterns of disrespect and degradation of people that she deems to be inferior.”
Jackson, a former manager at Deen’s restaurant Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House, sued Deen and her brother Bubba Hiers last year, saying that she was sexually harassed and that the work environment was rife with discrimination. Deen and her brother deny wrongdoing, according to court records.
After Deen’s May 17 deposition went public — in which she admitted to using the N-word and said that she had considered planning a “plantation-style” Southern wedding — she ended up losing her most lucrative business deals, with at least 12 companies ending or taking a break from their relationship with the 66-year-old TV chef.
This is the first time Jackson has spoken out since the scandal broke.
“I may be a white woman, but I could no longer tolerate her abuse of power as a business owner, nor her condonation of Mr. Hier’s despicable behavior on a day-to-day basis,” she continued in the statement. “I am what I am, and I am a human being that cares about discrimination in the workplace. In part, in this circumstance, I have to be a voice for those who are too afraid to use theirs."
Lawyers for Deen have argued that, “Jackson cannot enforce someone else’s right, and she has no actionable claim for feeling ‘uncomfortable’ around discriminatory conduct directed at others.”
Many fans have come to Deen’s defense, with thousands posting words of support for her on Facebook and Twitter, arguing that she shouldn’t be punished for something she said decades ago. For her part, Deen seemed to address Jackson during her emotional interview on TODAY last week, saying, “There’s someone evil out there that saw what I had worked for, and they wanted it."