Food Network not renewing Paula Deen’s contract after N-word fiasco

Updated
Celebrity chef Paula Deen in 2012.
Celebrity chef Paula Deen in 2012.
Carlo Allegri/AP

Updated on June 21 at 5:33pm:

Paula Deen’s job is toast. A Food Network spokesperson confirmed Friday that they are not renewing Deen’s contract when it expires at the end of this month.

The network’s announcement came after Deen posted a series of apology videos to YouTube, some of which were later taken down from the site. “I want to apologize to everybody for the wrong that I’ve done,” she said in one of the videos released on Friday. “I want to learn and grow from this. Inappropriate,  hurtful language is totally, totally unacceptable.” She added, “I beg for your forgiveness.”

Earlier in the day, she was scheduled to appear on The Today Show but bailed on her appearance last-minute, citing exhaustion.

The celebrity chef has been under fire after admitting to using a racial slur, according to court documents that surfaced earlier in the week. The National Enquirer first obtained Deen’s deposition Wednesday, in which she responded to allegations of racism in the workplace–and admited to using the N-word and expressing a wish for a wedding served by waiters dressed as slaves.

The legal deposition was held on May 17 after one of Deen’s former restaurant managers, Lisa Jackson, sued the TV chef and her brother Earl “Bubba” Hiers for sexual and racial workplace discrimination in a $1.2 million lawsuit. During the three-hour-long questioning, Jackson’s lawyer asked Deen if she had ever used the N-word.

Deen responded, “Yes, of course,” and detailed the instances in which she had used the racial slur. Below are Deen’s responses, as recorded in the deposition.

Lawyer: Have you ever used the N-word yourself?

Deen: Yes, of course.

Lawyer: Okay. In what context?

Deen: Well, it was probably when a black man burst into the bank that I was working at and put a gun to my head.

Lawyer: Okay. And what did you say?

Deen: Well, I don’t remember, but the gun was dancing all around my temple … I didn’t – I didn’t feel real favorable towards him.

Lawyer: Okay. Well, did you use the N-word to him as he pointed a gun in your head at your face?

Deen: Absolutely not.

Lawyer: Well, then, when did you use it?

Deen: Probably in telling my husband.

Lawyer: Okay. Have you used it since then?

Deen: I’m sure I have, but it’s been a very long time.

Lawyer: Can you remember the context in which you have used the N-word?

Deen: No.

Lawyer: Has it occurred with sufficient frequency that you cannot recall all of the various context in which you’ve used it?

Deen: No, no.

Lawyer: Well, then tell me the other context in which you’ve used the N-word?

Deen: I don’t know, maybe in repeating something that was said to me.

Lawyer: Like a joke?

Deen: No, probably a conversation between blacks. I don’t–I don’t know. But that’s just not a word that we use as time has gone on. Things have changed since the ’60s in the south. And my children and my brother object to that word being used in any cruel or mean behavior. As well as I do.


A transcript of the deposition describes an instance when Jackson witnessed Deen’s racial views. Jackson was placed in charge of food and serving arrangements for Bubba Hiers’ wedding in February 2007, and asked Deen what kind of wedding reception it would be. “I want a true southern plantation-style wedding,” Deen replied.

Jackson subsequently asked Deen what type of uniforms she preferred the servers to wear.

“Well what I would really like is a bunch of little n—–s to wear long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties, you know in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around.” Paula Deen laughed and said “Now that would be a true southern wedding, wouldn’t it? But we can’t do that because the media would be on me about that.”


Deen responded to Jackson’s allegations.

“I remember telling them about a restaurant that my husband and I had recently visited. And I’m wanting to think it was in Tennessee or North Carolina or somewhere, and it was so impressive. The whole entire wait staff was middle-aged black men, and they had on beautiful white jackets with a black bow tie. I mean, it was really impressive. And I remember saying I would love to have servers like that, I said, but I would be afraid somebody would misinterpret.”


“That restaurant represented a certain era in America,” Deen said. The servers in that era “were slaves,” she conceded. “But I did not mean anything derogatory by saying that I loved their look.” She denied having used the N-word to describe the restaurant’s wait-staff “because that’s not what these men were. They were professional black men doing a fabulous job.”

The celebrity chef also said she didn’t know what kinds of jokes minority groups might find offensive.

Lawyer: Would you consider those to be using the N-word in a mean way?

Deen: That’s–that’s kind of hard. Most–most jokes are about Jewish people, rednecks, black folks. Most jokes target–I don’t know. I didn’t make up the jokes, I don’t know. I can’t–I don’t know.

Lawyer: Okay.

Deen: They usually target, though, a group. Gays or straights, black, redneck, you know, I just don’t know. I can’t, myself, determine what offends another person.


Deen’s lawyer released a brief statement Wednesday, defending his client and refuting the tabloid’s claims. ”Contrary to media reports, Ms. Deen does not condone or find the use of racial epithets acceptable,” Bill Franklin of the Savannah law firm Oliver Maner wrote. “She is looking forward to her day in court.”

A spokeswoman for the Food Network also issued a statement. ”Food Network does not tolerate any form of discrimination and is a strong proponent of diversity and inclusion. We will continue to monitor the situation,” the statement read.

(This is not the first time the Food Network star has been the center of controversy. Deen has been criticized for promoting unhealthy food on her show, and it was disclosed last year that she suffers from Type 2 diabetes.)

After the news broke of Deen’s legal troubles, Twitter users lambasted the chef with the trending topic #PaulasBestDishes.

Hash Browns vs. Board of Education #PaulasBestDishes

— rookie mistake (@maggieserota) June 19, 2013

3/5ths of a flan #PaulasBestDishes

— Louis Fairandblonde (@blunted215) June 19, 2013

We Shall Over-Crumb Cake #PaulasBestDishes

— Ashley Carter (@ashcar) June 19, 2013

Food Network not renewing Paula Deen’s contract after N-word fiasco

Updated