Paula Deen is no stranger to controversy, but new allegations of racism leveled against the Southern chef may shock even those who have followed her troubles most closely.
The National Enquirer claims to have acquired a video of a deposition in which Deen admits to using the N-word and making racist and anti-semitic jokes. She also allegedly describes her interest in hiring black waiters dressed to look like "slaves" at a wedding.
The deposition, which was reportedly held on May 17, took place as part of a court case brought forth by former Paula Deen Enterprises employee Lisa Jackson against Deen and her brother, Earl “Bubba” Hiers. Jackson alleges several instances of sexual and racial workplace discrimination.
Neither the video of the deposition or The National Enquirer's story are available on the web, but Radar Online posted some of the story's most disturbing highlights:
[W]hen asked if she wanted black men to play the role of slaves at a wedding she explained she got the idea from a restaurant her husband and her had dined at saying, “The whole entire waiter staff was middle-aged black men, and they had on beautiful white jackets with a black bow tie.
“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.”
While The National Enquirer has a checkered history when it comes to printing the truth, it's worth noting that the tabloid was first to break the story that Deen suffered from type II diabetes, and its early reporting on the John Edwards affair turned the story into a national scandal.
A representative for Deen strongly refutes The National Enquirer's allegations, telling Entertainment Tonight that, “Contrary to media reports, Ms. Deen does not condone or find the use of racial epithets acceptable. She is looking forward to her day in court.”
We'll be following this story closely to see if these allegations pan out. If they do, we imagine Paula Deen will have some explaining to do.
UPDATE 6/19, 3:40 P.M.: The Huffington Post has obtained a transcript of the deposition in question. The quotes below are pulled directly from it.
On using the N-word:
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?
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.
On her brother's behavior:
Lawyer: Are you aware of Mr. Hiers admitting that he engaged in racially and sexually inappropriate behavior in the workplace?
Deen: I guess
Lawyer: Okay. Well, have you done anything about what you heard him admit to doing?
Deen: My brother and I have had conversations. My brother is not a bad person. Do humans behave inappropriately? At times, yes. I don't know one person that has not. My brother is a good man. Have we told jokes? Have we said things that we should not have said, that -- yes, we all have. We all have done that, every one of us.
On telling jokes that target African Americans, Jews, gays and other groups:
Lawyer: What about jokes, if somebody is telling a joke that's got --
Deen: It's just what they are, they're jokes.
Lawyer: Okay. 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.
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.
On planning a Southern plantation-style wedding:
Lawyer: Do you recall using the words “really southern plantation wedding”?
Deen: Yes, I did say I would love for Bubba to experience a very southern style wedding, and we did that. We did that.
Lawyer: Okay. You would love for him to experience a southern style plantation wedding?
Lawyer: That’s what you said?
Deen: Well, something like that, yes. And -–
Laywer: Okay. And is that when you went on to describe the experience you had at the restaurant in question?
Deen: 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 –-
Lawyer: Is there any possibility, in your mind, that you slipped and used the word “n----r”?
Deen: No, because that’s not what these men were. They were professional black men doing a fabulous job.
Lawyer: 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?
Deen: 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 the pictures, and the pictures that I’ve seen, that restaurant represented a certain era in America.
Deen: And I was in the south when I went to this restaurant. It was located in the south.
Lawyer: Okay. What era in America are you referring to?
Deen: Well, I don’t know. After the Civil War, during the Civil War, before the Civil War.
Lawyer: Right. Back in an era where there were middle-aged black men waiting on white people.
Deen: Well, it was not only black men, it was black women.
Lawyer: Sure. And before the Civil War –- before the Civil War, those black men and women who were waiting on white people were slaves, right?
Deen: Yes, I would say that they were slaves.
Deen: But I did not mean anything derogatory by saying that I loved their look and their professionalism.
Read the transcript of the entire deposition below:
UPDATE 6/20, 12:40 P.M.: Food Network has released a statement saying that the channel "does not tolerate any form of discrimination and is a strong proponent of diversity and inclusion. We will continue to monitor the situation."
UPDATE 6/20, 12:50 P.M.: In a statement, Paula Deen Enterprises defends Deen:
"During a deposition where she swore to tell the truth, Ms. Deen recounted having used a racial epithet in the past, speaking largely about a time in American history which was quite different than today. She was born 60 years ago when America's South had schools that were segregated, different bathrooms, different restaurants and Americans rode in different parts of the bus. This is not today.
To be clear Ms. Deen does not find acceptable the use of this term under any circumstance by anyone nor condone any form of racism or discrimination. "
UPDATE 6/21, 8:50 A.M.: Deen pulled out of a scheduled Friday morning appearance on the "Today" show, where she was supposed to address the current scandal.
Host Matt Lauer told viewers that he had spoken with Deen the day before to arrange the interview, but that one of her representatives informed him, shortly before the show's airtime on Friday, she would not be attending.
Lauer and "Today" show personality Al Roker have both tweeted about the incident:
Hoping to get more info on the Paula Deen situation soon. Very confusing.
— Matt Lauer (@MLauer) June 21, 2013