Paula Deen, your fans want you back. Big time. And they've had it with the media harping on the allegations against you.
Deen's fans turned out this weekend in Houston to see her return to center stage following an uproar over her admitted use of the N-word. And it's the media they see as blowing the situation out of proportion. They say all is forgiven, and they want Deen back on TV with a new show.
"I love Paula Deen, and I think she's been really given a raw deal," fan K.C. Christian said in a CBS News report. "I support her 100% and so do all of my friends."
Fans gave Deen a standing ovation as she walked onstage and began weeping what she called tears of joy. "I'm so thankful and I'm so full of gratitude for all the love and encouragement that you all have shown me."
Many in attendance said they blamed the media for unfairly driving the controversy. One fan in attendance told a Fox news reporter: "I think it was really blown out of proportion and poor Paula, she was trying to do the right thing and be honest and she really got crucified for it."
Meanwhile, in an admittedly unscientific Los Angeles Times survey, 92% of those who voted in our online poll said they want Deen back on TV.
Another barometer of just how much fans are standing by her: Deen's "Southern Cooking Bible" is due out later this month, and it already has more than 800 reviews on Amazon.com giving it a 4.5-star rating. One such review: "I have purchased this book in support of Paula Deen, who has been made a scapegoat by the American public.... We've all made mistakes, stuck our foot in our mouths, said things we wished we hadn't ... she's human for God's sake!"
Deen's appearance in Houston comes after several weeks out of the public eye. The allegation that she used the N-word -- an event Deen said took place decades ago -- came in a nasty lawsuit filed against Deen by a former employee. The lawsuit has since been settled.
But it all had a devastating impact on Deen's business empire. Several sponsors and business partners cut ties with her, including Target and Wal-Mart. Food Network decided it would not renew its contract with Deen, stripping her of one of her most public platforms. Although the network said it would occasionally re-air some of Deen's old shows, the celebrity chef does not have a TV outlet for new material.