In recent days, Food Network pulled the plug on Paula Deen, the Queen of Southern Cuisine after an onslaught of media reports, citing Deen’s purported admission to the use of racial epithets and a subsequent awkward public apology by Deen herself. The leaked transcript of Deen’s deposition reveals dozens of media misquotes, leading fans to demand her return to the network.
Most of the reports were quoted from the transcript of Deen’s May 17, 2013 testimony given in deposition to the attorney for Lisa Jackson, a Caucasian woman in her 40’s who has filed a law suit against Paula Deen Enterprises and Deen’s brother, Bubba Hiers, alleging racism including the use of the ‘N word’, sexual harassment and infliction of emotional distress and assault while working at Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House in Savannah, Georgia from 2005 – 2010 as the General Manager.
UPDATE: In light of the show of overwhelming support fans are showing for Paula, we’ve created the #WeWantButter hash tag on Twitter in her honor. Retweet and favorite if you support Paula!
— Stitches 'n Dishes (@StitchesnDishes) June 24, 2013
Paula Deen Enterprises owns 50% of Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House, however Deen herself does not work at the restaurant. Hiers maintains a position at the restaurant, overseeing operations and the General Manager.
A few months prior to resigning and filing the law suit, Jackson wrote a letter to Deen, praising Deen and Hiers, stating,
“when I came to work for this company, as a person, I felt hopeless. I needed something, some opportunity that could provide me hope as an individual, as a woman, to make it on my own. At 15, homeless, without parents and with a young child, my life was headed in a direction no one could ever assume positive. As you know, I did what I had to do to survive, but it clearly was not the freedom or happiness I ever hoped for… When I started working for Bubba, he gave me an opportunity that allowed me, over time, a freedom I have never experienced. He allowed me, for once in my life to take care of myself and for once, have faith in myself as a person and as a woman to know that I could do it on my own; y’all were my Aunt Peggy… I have been given opportunities that I never thought possible, all because of you and Bubba.”
She left Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House abruptly, with no notice, and didn’t return to work. A few months later, Deen and Hiers received a letter from Jackson’s attorney, Matthew Billips of Billips & Benjamin LLP, asking for $1.25 million in settlement for the accusations that Jackson asserted, or else they’d tell every media outlet in the country about the accusations. Deen refused to fork over a settlement, claiming it was extortion.
Attorneys for Paula Deen Enterprises and Bubba Hiers filed a motion to dismiss the law suit, citing the letters Jackson and her attorney sent, and claiming that the accusations were false,
“Prior to the filing of this suit, Jackson repeatedly threatened to assert scurrilous claims publicly in the press unless huge sums of money were paid to Jackson and her counsel, which demand was refused. Jackson’s suit should be dismissed, for among other reasons, on equitable grounds on the basis of clean hands.”
However, the court rejected it. Deen’s attorneys then sought a gag order stating,
“a protective order is necessary because Ms. Jackson and her counsel have made abundantly clear that they intend to engage in a path of personal and financial destruction because Paula Deen would not pay their pretrial settlement demand…Through her cooking and television exposure, Mrs. Deen has arguably become the face of Southern cuisine and living….For a public figure such as Mrs. Deen, even if Ms. Jackson’s allegations are proven untrue, the harm resulting from the continuing mass dissemination of the allegations may never be undone.”
Judge Louisa Abbot denied the gag order request and said in her written ruling, “Having considered the parties’ arguments, the Court finds the litigants’ concerns about potentially adverse pretrial publicity and the potential effects of damage to their reputations do not outweigh any of the constitutional principles invoked by this motion, including freedom of press and speech.”
Billips lived up to his promise to smear Deen, authorizing the release of the written and video transcripts of the Paula Deen deposition to Darryl Wrobel, National ENQUIRER Senior Correspondent.
During her deposition, Deen was unable to corroborate many of the accusations, because she did not work at the restaurant and was unfamiliar with several of the individuals named. However, she addressed allegations about her which directly implied that she made racist remarks, including the use of the “N word.”
Lisa Jackson’s Deposition Testimony
During deposition on February 11, 2013, Jackson’s sworn testimony about Deen did not accuse her of using racial epithets, including the “N word.” She also stated that she had no problems with Deen throughout her employment.
Up until May 27th, 2010, you had no complaints or problems with Mrs. Deen, did you?
She had never indicated any discriminatory bias or prejudice, did she?
Yes. One remark she made at Bubba’s wedding planning.
Were you there –
– at the planning? Now, you tell me, when did that occur and where?
On her back porch.
Which house, Dogwood?
Dogwood. We were sitting on the back porch and we asked about the uniforms. And she made a remark about how she wanted them dressed.
Who was there?
It was Bubba, and me, and Paula.
Bubba, you, and who?
Okay. What did she say about how she wanted them dressed?
Like they used to dress in the Shirley Temple days with the long white shirts and the shorts. And I remember thinking when she said it that I thought about Dora. And I thought, I know she loves – I know you love Dora, and it was like how could – you know, how could she say something like that. Then a fan rode by on a boat, and she said, well, we know we can’t do that because the media would be on us.
And I just – at that moment thought – it was disappointing, but I still had respect for the position she had offered me and that I was doing there.
And, but was her comment was that she wanted a wedding back in the Shirley Temple days with blacks wearing what?
And black pants or black shorts.
And that’s the sum total of the conversation about that; is that correct?
Jackson later amended her statement to add accusations that Deen used the “N word” in describing Hiers’ wedding day.
Paula Deen’s Deposition Testimony
Throughout Deen’s deposition, she denies these allegations.
Okay. So was Lisa [Jackson] ever present when you discussed with Brandon [Branch] what kind of wedding you’d like to have?
I don’t recall that. I recall – I do recall, once again, in my bathroom at the house, and why we would have been in the bathroom, I was probably filming and changing clothes, that’s the only reason why we would have been in that bathroom, they must have run out during my lunch break or something from filming, and I remember us talking about the meal.
And 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 that somebody would misinterpret.
The media might misinterpret it?
Yes, or whomever –
– is so shallow that they would read something to it.
Were they dressed in white shorts and bow ties?
No, they were dressed in white jackets.
And a bow tie?
And a bow tie and black trousers, and they were incredible.
Okay. And you said something –
These were men that had made their living off of service and people in a restaurant. It was – I was so impressed.
Okay. And they were all black men?
Yes. Professional servers and waiters.
And when you described it to Miss Jackson, did you mention the race of – well, you had to have mentioned the race of the servers –
Of course I would because that’s what we just experienced.
Right. Do you know what word you used to identify their race?
I would have used just what I just told you.
Black or African-American?
Black. I would use the word black. I don’t usually use the word African-American.
Okay. So is there any reason that you could not have done something just like that but have different races?
That’s what made it so impressive. These were professional. I’m not talking about somebody that’s been a waiter for two weeks. I’m talking about these were professional middle-aged men, that probably made a very, very good living at this restaurant. They were trained. The – it – it was the whole picture, the setting of the restaurant, the servers, their professionalism.
Is there any reason you couldn’t have found middle-aged professional servers who were of different races?
Listen, it was not important enough to me to even fight to produce what that restaurant had. I was just simply expressing an experience that my husband and I had, and I was so impressed.
Did you describe it as a – that that would be a true southern wedding, words to that effect?
I don’t know.
Do you recall using the words, “really southern plantation wedding?”
Yes, I did say I would love for Bubba to experience a very southern style wedding, and we did that. We did that.
Okay. You would love for him to experience a southern style plantation wedding?
That’s what you said?
Well, something like that, yes. And –
Okay. And is that when you went on to describe the experience you had had at the restaurant in question?
Well, I don’t know. We were probably talking about the food or – we would have been talking about something to do with service at the wedding, and –
Is there any possibility, in your mind, that you slipped and used the word “n—-r?”
No, because that’s not what these men were. They were professional black men doing a fabulous job.
Why did that make it a – if you would have had servers like that, why would that have made it a really southern plantation wedding?
Well, it – to me, of course I’m old but I ain’t that old, I didn’t live back in those days but I’ve seen pictures, and the pictures that I’ve seen, that restaurant represented a certain era in America. And I was in the south when I went to this restaurant. It was located in the south.
Okay. What era in America are you referring to?
Well, I don’t know. After the Civil War, during the Civil War, Before the Civil War.
Right. Back in the era where there were middle-aged black men waiting on white people.
Well, it was not only black men, it was black women.
Sure. And before the Civil War – before the Civil War, those black men and women who were waiting on white people were slaves, right?
Yes, I would say that they were slaves. But I did not mean anything derogatory by saying I loved their look and their professionalism.
But you knew that if you did something like that, the media would pick up on it and have something to say?
No, I knew the media was not covering Bubba’s wedding. But just people around. It just wasn’t worth – it just wasn’t worth it.
The Rest of the Story
The media has made a point to quote several statements made by Deen in her deposition, claiming that she admitted that she uses the “N word” and frequently tells racially offensive jokes. However, throughout her testimony, she makes it clear that she does not approve of these activities.
Deen admits that she used the “N word” approximately 27 years ago.
Okay. Miss Deen, have you told racial jokes?
No, not racial.
The “N Word”
Okay. Have you ever used the N word yourself?
Yes, of course.
Okay. In what context?
Well, it was probably when a black man burst into the bank that I was working at and put a gun to my head.
And what did you say?
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.
Okay. Well, did you use the N word to him as he pointed a gun in your head at your face?
Well, then, when did you use it?
Probably in telling my husband.
How About Now?
Okay. Have you used it since then?
I’m sure I have, but it’s been a very long time.
Can you remember the context in which you have used the N word?
Has it occurred with sufficient frequency that you cannot recall all of the various context in which you’ve used it?
That’s Just Not a Word That We Use
Well, then tell me the other context in which you’ve used the N word?
I don’t know, maybe in repeating something that was said to me. 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.
Are you aware that your brother has admitted to using that word at work?
I don’t know about that.
When you and Mr. Hiers started Uncle Bubba’s Seafood, was a decision made to hire only whites to work in the front of the restaurant?
No. Bubba and I, neither one of us, care what the color of your skin is or what is between your legs, it’s what’s in your heart and in your head that matters to us.
Don’t Use the N-Word
Miss Deen, earlier in your testimony you indicated that one of the things that you had tried to – that you and your husband tried to teach your children was not to use the N word in a mean way, do you recall that testimony?
Okay. And could you give me an example of how you have demonstrated for them a nice way to use the N word? Or a non-mean way?
We hear a lot of things in the kitchen. Things that they – that black people will say to each other. If we are relaying something that was said, a problem that we’re discussing, that’s not said in a mean way.
Back on the Topic of Racial Jokes
What about jokes, if somebody is telling a joke that’s got –
It’s just what they are, they’re jokes.
Okay. Would you consider those to be using the N word in a mean way?
That — that’s — that’s — pardon? 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. They usually target, though, a group. Gays or straights, black, redneck, you know, I just don’t know – I just know what to say. I can’t, myself, determine what offends another person. I can feel out that person pretty good on what would offend them, but I’m not sure, Mr. Billips, what – what the question even means.
Well, if you were sitting around at home just with you and your family, would you feel any hesitation in telling a joke the you thought was funny if it had the N word in it?
I don’t tell jokes, not at my house. That’s –
Do the other members of your family tell jokes at home?
And they told jokes using the N word?
I’m sure they have. My husband is constantly telling me jokes.
Okay. And would you consider telling jokes, racial jokes, to be an example of using the N word in a way that’s not mean?
Not for me personally. It would not –
It wouldn’t be mean for you personally?
No, it wouldn’t – I wouldn’t tell it. I mean, that’s – that’s not my style of joke.
Okay. Your style of joke generally has some sexual component to it; is that fair?
Yeah, lots of times. I poke fun at myself and other women.
What about racial harassment?
We don’t tolerate that. I would think that that would be picking out a certain race and never cutting them any slack. I don’t know, verbally abusing them maybe, I’m not sure. I don’t know. We don’t – we don’t do that, I don’t know.
So what did Paula Deen apologize for in her very awkward YouTube video? She was scheduled for an interview with Matt Lauer, but cancelled. Instead, she created her own home-made video on the spot. It’s likely that in a state of panic after realizing the media latched on to her “admission,” that she felt she owed an apology.
Deen wrote the following message with the video:
After spending all day soul searching and trying to figure out how to deal with what I did, I recorded a video trying to do the right thing. In the end, I felt that I needed to just be myself, say I am sorry and beg for forgiveness.
What I said was wrong and hurtful. I know that and will do everything that I can do make it right. I am not about hate, and I will devote myself to showing my family, friends and fans how to live a life helping others, lifting us all up, and spreading love.
Is Paula Deen racist? Does Paula Deen Enterprises discriminate? Does Lisa Jackson deserve $1.25 million or is she extorting the funds as she’s claimed she’d do what she “had to do to survive?”