News

Paula Deen's fans defend her in wake of controversy

June 24, 2013 at 9:39 AM ET


Video: Amid a controversial lawsuit in which a former employee is accusing her of harassment and discrimination, the Food Network decided not to renew Paula Deen’s contract. But will the general public forgive the popular cook, who admitted to using the N-word? NBC’s Tamron Hall reports.

After the Food Network announced on Friday that Paula Deen’s contract would not be renewed in the wake of controversy, her legion of fans took to social media over the weekend to voice their displeasure.

Deen, 66, has been under fire since details emerged from a May 17 deposition in which she admitted using racial slurs, particularly the N-word. On Friday, she was a no-show for a scheduled interview with Matt Lauer on TODAY, claiming she was exhausted. She is now scheduled to appear in an exclusive live interview with Lauer on TODAY Wednesday.

Food Network 'will not renew Paula Deen's contract'

On Friday, Deen posted three short videos on YouTube apologizing for using “inappropriate, hurtful language,’’ and for failing to show up for the scheduled interview with Lauer. After the videos were posted, the Food Network announced it was severing ties with the popular Deen after 11 years with the network.

Over the weekend, numerous Facebook pages supporting Deen and calling for a boycott of the Food Network popped up, with several garnering thousands of likes. “Show me an adult person who has not said the N word in his life, black or white. You without sin cast the first stone,’’ one commenter wrote.

Paula Deen said she used slur but doesn't tolerate hate

The Food Network’s official Facebook page also was bombarded by Deen fans. A post of a recipe for zucchini casserole became a forum for fans to air their grievances. “It is shameful the way you are treating Paula Deen,” one wrote, while another wrote, “I hope this move hits you hard in your pockets.”

“I’m not surprised that Paula Deen’s fans have reached out for her, but the Food Network is not that concerned about a few thousand people on social media,’’ media analyst Steve Adubato said on TODAY Monday. “They have to be concerned about sponsors.”

The line at Deen’s restaurant in Savannah, Ga., The Lady and Sons, was out the door Saturday morning as local residents showed their support, as shown in a photo published in The New York Times.

Fans line up outside Paula Deen's restaurant.
Dylan Wilson / The New York Times via Redux
On Saturday, patrons waited in line outside The Lady and Sons, Paula Deen's restaurant in Savannah, Ga.

“I commend her by even apologizing,’’ diner Michael Schneller told TODAY outside the restaurant. “I know a lot of our political leaders in the nation can’t even say they’re sorry.’’

However, on Saturday leading food blog Eater disputed the picture of The Lady and Sons packed with Deen defenders. Eater posted its own photos of a much quieter scene, which the blog said were taken "mid-day on Saturday," and called the restaurant "a ghost town."

Deen lost her endorsement deal with Smithfield Foods on Monday. She has also been heavily criticized on social media, and her business relationship with shopping channel QVC also could be in jeopardy.

“QVC shares the concerns being raised around the unfortunate Paula Deen situation,’’ QVC vice president of corporate communications Paul Capelli said in a statement over the weekend. “QVC does not tolerate discriminatory behavior. We are closely monitoring these events and the ongoing litigation. We are reviewing our business relationship with Ms. Deen, and in the meantime, we have no immediate plans to have her appear on QVC.”

The fallout from the controversy has left Deen’s career at a crossroads.

“I think she’s going to have a much harder time than a Martha Stewart,’’ Adubato said. “I think she is as close to dead as a brand as you can find out there. It could happen, but it’s an incredibly long shot.”

TOP