In June 2013, the vast cooking empire of Paula Deen suddenly crumbled with just a few unfortunate words. She admitted to using the N-word during a court deposition — and it didn’t go over well.
Deen’s admission of past racist language came out when testifying in regard to a racial and sexual discrimination lawsuit filed by a former employee. When asked about use of the N-word, Deen responded, “Yes, of course.” She then clarified that things had “changed since the ’60s in the South.”
While such an admission usually wouldn’t gain much of a reaction, Deen’s homey persona and extremely public position turned the racially charged language into a full-scale controversy. Deen quickly lost endorsement and sales deals with companies ranging from Target and Walmart to a diabetes company. Even more damaging to Deen, the Food Network announced that it would not renew the celebrity chef’s contract.
Commercial reactions may have paled in comparison to the more personal responses. Twitter erupted with fans arguing about whether to condemn Deen or to let this slide.
Deen did offer a public apology via her website, but even that proved to be a little controversial. An early version of her message showed Deen appearing uncomfortable and phony on camera.
A second video worked out a little better — Deen’s just-released cookbook actually started selling, indicating that some people forgave her. Still, the chef’s name is not entirely clear. Deen may forever be tarnished by her past sins — even though the lawsuit that started it all was later dropped.
Do Deen’s words, and her fumbling attempts at an apology, still sting? Or have you long sonce moved on to other controversies?