Paula Deen fired by Food Network over use of racial epithet

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Paula Deen was fired Friday afternoon by the Food Network over her use of a racial epithet -- the N-word -- and other racially charged comments.

The Food Network’s statement was short and to the point: “Food Network will not renew Paula Deen’s contract when it expires at the end of this month.”

The network statement capped a day in which the controversy unfolded on several fronts. First, the Queen of Southern Cooking canceled a planned appearance on the “Today” show. Host Matt Lauer said Deen skipped the appearance even though she had earlier agreed to a candid, no-holds barred discussion. Her representatives cited exhaustion.


Then, later in the day, Deen took a stab at damage control when she took to YouTube to apologize “for mistakes I have made” and ask fans and family for forgiveness. “Inappropriate, hurtful language is totally, totally unacceptable,” she said in the brief video.

But shortly after it was posted, the video disappeared. Minutes after that, the Food Network released its statement. Unclear is whether the two events were in any way related and the network was not commenting beyond the statement.

The Paula Deen brand extends well beyond the Food Network.

The celebrity chef oversees a personal brand that includes spices, cookie mixes, pots and pans, kitchenwear, cruise line appearances and even a new line of flavored butters.


But the Food Network was Deen’s most prestigious platform -- and the platform that made her a household name.

By Deen’s own admission, according to court documents, she has used an epithet for blacks -- the N-word -- and told racially charged jokes, although not recently. She also insisted that she does not tolerate hate, according to the Associated Press.

The documents filed as part of a lawsuit involving Deen also quote her as saying she once envisioned hiring a fleet of black men to serve at a wedding she was planning, and she imagined them decked out in white jackets and black bow ties.


Although for some, such attire brings to mind uncomfortable images of black history in the South, Deen was quoted as saying in the court documents that she found the formal wear impressive. The party idea, however, was nixed for fear that some would misinterpret it.

Earlier in the week, her attorney said Deen was looking forward to telling her side of the story in court.

The Food Network currently airs new episodes of “Paula’s Best Dishes.” Two other shows, “Paula’s Home Cooking” and “Paula’s Party,” air occasionally on the Food Network in reruns.


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