Paula Deen blames Southern upbringing for N-word controversy

Paula Deen is trying to clean up the kitchen after whipping up some racial comments that threaten her TV and cookbook empire.

The celebrity chef -- who in a videotaped court deposition last month admitted using the N-word and planning to attire black waiters as antebellum slaves at a party -- had her PR team issue another statement on Thursday that blamed her Southern upbringing for her comments.

“During a deposition where she swore to tell the truth, Ms. Deen recounted having used a racial epithet in the past, speaking largely about a time in American history which was quite different than today,” the statement said. “She was born 60 years ago when America’s South had schools that were segregated, different bathrooms, different restaurants and Americans rode in different parts of the bus. This is not today.” (In fact, Deen is 66 years old, not 60.)

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The statement raises some additional questions. According to the deposition, Deen admitted using the N-word when she worked at a bank that was robbed by a black assailant who held a gun to her head. It’s unclear when this event is supposed to have occurred, but published reports have indicated that Deen worked at a bank in the mid-1980s -- well after the Civil Rights movement had transformed racial attitudes in the South and elsewhere.


Her excuse isn’t washing with some viewers. On Twitter, users are ripping her with the hashtag #PaulasBestDishes, including “South Will Rise Again Souffle.” Talk queen Wendy Williams, meanwhile, said she’s “done” with Deen and criticized her remarks as “stupid.”

What happens next is unclear. Food Network is still airing new episodes of “Paula’s Best Dishes” as well as repeats of two older Deen programs. “We will continue to monitor the situation,” the network wrote in a statement.

Advertisers are taking a wait-and-see attitude. “She is going to have to do some damage control,” said Brad Adgate, an analyst for ad firm Horizon Media. “She is going to have to explain herself on camera to viewers and let them decide whether they want to continue to buy her products.”


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Twitter: @scottcollinsLAT