Results of the Paula Deen Controversy

Paula Deen admitted using the "N-word" and apologized, but it wasn't enough. She has been fired from the Food Network and has lost her sponsorship deal with Smithfield Foods, the largest pork producer.

Deen's language became public from her deposition in a lawsuit by Lisa T. Jackson, who worked closely with Deen in one of her restaurants in Savannah, GA. Part of the suit accused Deen of talking about her dream "Southern plantation wedding," using racial slurs and fantasizing about having black waiters to "tap dance around" as in the "Shirley Temple days." During the deposition, Deen admitted using racial slurs at times and said, according to The New York Times, "'most jokes' are about Jews, gay people, black people and 'rednecks.'" She also said, "I can't, myself, determine what offends another person."

Since then, Deen has been tripping over herself in apology videos-three, so far.

Her first apology video didn't go too well. She seemed to focus more on asking for forgiveness than showing remorse and has several curious cuts (apparently in the original as well). What could have to be cut in a 46-second video? Also, words like "beg" aren't the best choice for an apology.

Although Deen's second apology video garnered 3.7 million views within three days, it has about the same number of likes as dislikes.

Dean also posted this note to describe her video:

"After spending all day soul searching and trying to figure out how to deal with what I did, I recorded a video trying to do the right thing. In the end, I felt that I needed to just be myself, say I am sorry and beg for forgiveness.

"What I said was wrong and hurtful. I know that and will do everything that I can do make it right. I am not about hate, and I will devote myself to showing my family, friends and fans how to live a life helping others, lifting us all up, and spreading love."


In yet a third video (similar to the second), Deen apologizes directly to Matt Lauer for failing to appear for a scheduled interview on The Today Show.

But all of her efforts don't seem to be saving Deen's reputation. The Food Network dropped her two shows and issued only this statement, with no further comment: "Food Network will not renew Paula Deen's contract when it expires at the end of this month."

Smithfield Foods issued this statement about terminating Deen's contract:

"Smithfield condemns the use of offensive and discriminatory language and behavior of any kind. 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."

Discussion Starters: 

  • What, if anything, could Paul Deen have done to salvage her image and employment contracts?
  • What works well about her second apology video, and what could be improved?
  • Should the Food Network have said more about the situation? What is its strategy in issuing only a short statement and offering no further comment?