June 26, 2013

Hey, let's all fire Paula Deen

It isn’t because she’s a bigot (and if she used the n-word as late as 2007, she is). It isn’t because of the allegations put forth against her by a former employee.

It’s this: She doesn’t understand why anybody might judge her based on words she herself has used. She seems obsessed with telling the whole world how wronged she feels, over and over again. She’s a supposedly seasoned public figure who can’t seem to get her message straight.

And, simply put, that’s embarrassing for the people who pay her. I’d fire her too.

The whole mess started about a week ago, after someone leaked a deposition recorded as part of an ongoing racial discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit against the butter evangelist. In Deen’s deposition, she confirmed that “of course” she’d used the n-word in the past, though she currently frowns on using it “in any cruel or mean behavior.” 

She also confirmed expressing a wish to cater an old-plantation-style wedding. The servers in that era “were slaves,” she conceded. “But I did not mean anything derogatory by saying that I loved their look.” 

Since that news broke, Deen has (1) blown off a Today show interview (2) aired a fairly decent apology video on YouTube (3) taken down that video (4) put up another, more defensive, video and then, just this morning, (5) finally met up with Matt Lauer.

And in less than 15 minutes, she managed to pretty much reaffirm the Food Network’s decision to dump her.

On why she blew off her originally scheduled interview: “I was it’s hard for me to even find the words, Matt, that I was feeling. I was overwhelmed. I was in a state of shock. There has (sic) been some very very hurtful lies said about me.”

On the commentators: “The people who have worked beside me and people who have walked beside me know what kind of person I am. I am so distressed that people I’ve never heard of are, all of a sudden, experts on who I am.”

On how she’s doin’: “I’m heartbroken. I’ve had to hold friends in my arms while they’ve sobbed because they know what’s being said about me is not true. I am having to comfort them and tell them it’s gonna be all right.”

The poor lamb.

But perhaps the most telling moment of the interview came after Lauer asked Deen whether she could understand why the n-word offends black people. Her precise response:

“It’s very distressing for me to go into my kitchens and hear what these young people are calling each other. It’s very very distressing. These young people are going to have to take control and start having respect for each other and not throw that word at each other.”

See what she did there? She deflected the question away from her and put all future responsibility for what’s offensive on the black teenagers who work for her.

Publicists tell me that, yep, Deen’s strategy has been a disaster, all right.

“When we see Paula Dean issuing a statement, on TV or in a video, she looks uncomfortable, insincere and scripted,” says Elizabeth Lampert, who has done crisis PR work for entertainment industry heavyweights. “Worst of all, she's finger pointing. 

“Paula is is trying to portray herself as the victim... when what she needs to` do is take full responsibility for her words and apologize.”

All that said, don’t expect Deen to suffer for long. I’ll have more on her future–and why it’s as rosy as mornin’ in the ol’ cotton fields–on my next podcast.

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    1. Claudea, I'm the Web admin. I accidentally and clumsily deleted your comment. I'm very sorry. If you still have the draft, please repost. I promise I won't step on it again.

  2. Don't forget the all-important Oprah redemption interview.