By Alex Dobuzinskis
LOS ANGELES, June 21 The Food Network said on
Friday it would drop celebrity chef Paula Deen after the
Southern food doyenne was sued for racial discrimination and
admitted in a legal deposition to using a racial slur in the
The impending loss of Deen's broadcast deal represents a
potentially huge setback for a television personality who has
built an empire on high calorie food, with cookbooks and
restaurants in her native Georgia and other states.
The Food Network said in a statement it "will not renew
Paula Deen's contract when it expires at the end of this month."
A spokeswoman declined further comment but the network,
which is owned by Scripps Network Interactive Inc, said on
Thursday it "does not tolerate any form of discrimination and is
a strong proponent of diversity and inclusion."
The network's decision to drop Deen was announced hours
after she failed to make a scheduled appearance on the NBC
television morning show "Today" to discuss the controversy. She
later apologized on video that was posted online.
"I want to apologize to everybody for the wrong that I've
done. I want to learn and grow from this," Deen said in one
video posted on YouTube and other websites.
The controversy surrounding Deen erupted earlier this week
when a deposition was released in transcript form in which Deen,
who is white, was asked if she had used the "N-word," and
responded, "Yes, of course." The "N-word" is a euphemism for
"nigger," an epithet for black people.
Asked about the epithet in the deposition, Deen said she had
used the slur when describing, probably to her husband, how a
black man robbed a bank where she was working in the 1980s. She
said she had used the word since, "but it's been a very long
A former employee of Paula Deen Enterprises, Lisa Jackson,
is suing Deen and her brother, Earl "Bubba" Hiers, in federal
court alleging racial and sexual discrimination in the
workplace. The deposition was related to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges that, while discussing with Jackson
plans for Hiers' 2007 wedding, Deen said she wanted a "true
southern plantation-style wedding."
"Well, what I would really like is a bunch of little niggers
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," Deen said, according to the lawsuit.
'PLENTY OF MISTAKES'
In one video message posted on Friday to YouTube, Deen
apologized to "Today" host Matt Lauer for failing to show up for
her interview, as she tried to reach out directly to the public.
"I want people to understand that my family and I are not
the kind of people that the press is wanting to say we are,"
Deen said in that message.
In another video statement posted on YouTube and other
websites, Deen said she had made "plenty of mistakes along the
"But I beg you, my children, my team, my fans, my partners,
I beg for your forgiveness," she said.
Deen did not directly mention the lawsuit or her deposition
in either of the two widely shared video statements.
A spokeswoman for Deen did not return calls or an e-mail
Howard Bragman, vice chairman of the reputation management
service Reputation.com, told Reuters the chef "needs to be
honest, emotional and convincing."
"She's never going to come back whole, she's never going to
come back to where she once was," Bragman said in a phone
interview. "Do I think she can salvage some measure of a career?
Yes I do, there's a lot of people who still like her - the
butter manufacturers of America. But she's never going to come
Long before becoming a celebrity chef, in 1989 Deen started
out of her home a catering service called The Bag Lady. It
later became the critically acclaimed restaurant The Lady and
Sons in Savannah, Georgia.
Her show "Paula's Home Cooking" debuted on The Food Network
in 2002 and her program "Paula's Best Dishes" premiered in 2008.
She had a longstanding love for butter as an ingredient, but
after revealing last year that she had Type 2 diabetes, she
became a paid spokeswoman for drug maker Novo Nordisk and
introduced light recipes.