Celebrity chef and enthusiastic mayonnaise purveyor Paula Deen has been the butt of jokes about her more-is-more cooking philosophy for years, but she’s now accused of racism. According to the National Enquirer, Deen responded in a court deposition to allegations from a former employee that she had used the N-word by saying, “yes, of course,” and unapologetically admitting to making racist jokes.
Deen, 66, star of shows like “Paula’s Best Dishes” and “Paula’s Home Cooking,” has been quietly embroiled in a $1.2 million lawsuit with the former manager of a restaurant she co-owns with her brother Bubba Hiers. Manager Lisa Jackson alleges that Hiers sexually harassed her and that Deen made racist comments that included suggesting that African-American employees should act like slaves at a wedding she was organizing. According to the report, Deen said in her deposition that she had gotten the idea from a restaurant that reminded her of the Civil War.
“The whole entire waiter staff was middle-aged black men, and they had on beautiful white jackets with a black bow tie," Deen was quoted as saying. “I mean, it was really impressive. That restaurant represented a certain era in America … after the Civil War, during the Civil War, before the Civil War. … It was not only black men, it was black women … I would say they were slaves.”
When Jackson’s attorney asked Deen if she had ever used the N-word, Deen reportedly answered, “yes, of course,” and listed specific times she had done so. Regarding racist jokes, Deen allegedly said, “It’s just what they are — they’re jokes…most jokes are about Jewish people, rednecks, black folks. … I can’t determine what offends another person.”
The report went on to allege that Hier and Deen’s admissions were just the tip of the iceberg. “While Paula and Bubba did make some pretty damaging confessions in their depositions, what they admitted to only scratches the surface of what actually goes on in their daily lives,” a source reportedly told the tabloid.
The reports sparked an immediate backlash on Twitter, where users began using the hashtag #PaulasBestDishes to share racist food puns.
Hash Browns vs. Board of Education #PaulasBestDishes
â€” rookie mistake (@maggieserota) June 19, 2013
The fracas also inspired some interesting product mockups, like a Paula Deen-themed "Whites Only Rice," subtitled "The South Will Rice Again."
â€” 13thsun (@da13thsun) June 24, 2013
Neither Deen’s rep nor press representatives for the Food Network had returned calls to Fox News as of Wednesday afternoon.