Paula Deen (Splash News)
Before being dropped like a bad biscuit by the Food Network, the celebrity chef issued an apology, scheduled an appearance on the "Today" show, bailed on that appearance (seriously irking Matt Lauer) and issued a follow-up video apology, begging for forgiveness. In other words, her recovery efforts got off to a rocky start.
That's why it's no surprise that several other behemoth brands associated with Deen are threatening to pull the plug on their partnerships. At least she's managed to reschedule that date with Lauer.
On Sunday, a representative for the shopping network QVC, which hawks Deen's cookware, issued a statement to People expressing "concerns [over] the unfortunate ... situation," and adding, "QVC does not tolerate discriminatory behavior."
But the airwaves aren't the only place Deen's empire is faltering. Sears Holdings also confirmed that "the company is currently exploring next steps as they pertain to Ms. Deen's products." We're not sure how much of her cash flow comes from big box retailers like Sears, but we're betting it's a lot.
Smithfield, the company behind Deen-branded hams has also announced that they're cutting ties with the fallen star.
"Smithfield condemns the use of offensive and discriminatory language and behavior of any kind. Therefore, we are terminating our partnership with Paula Deen," a spokeswoman for the company said in a statement. "Smithfield is determined to be an ethical food industry leader and it is important that our values and those of our spokespeople are properly aligned."
In addition, Deen's next book, (now unfortunately) titled, "Paula Deen's New Testament: 250 Favorite Recipes, All Lightened Up," may be in jeopardy. The book is due to hit shelves in October, but a spokesman for her publisher, Random House, Inc. cautioned, "We are monitoring the situation closely."
Even Novo Nordisk, which joined forces with Deen after she revealed she had diabetes, is considering abandoning ship, as is Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment, which has several of Deen's restaurants in its casinos. A rep for Caesars stated Friday that it also "will continue to monitor the situation."
When you risk getting dropped by pharmaceutical companies and casinos for being immoral, you know you're in a bad way.
It certainly didn't help things that a New York Times video surfaced in which Deen claims, "The South is almost less prejudiced because black folks played such an integral part in our lives," and then promptly tells her African American assistant Hollis Johnson to move over because, "We can't see you standing against that dark board." While it was said in jest at the time, Deen probably wishes she could take that one back.
But all is not lost for the Southern cooking magnate. In the midst of this storm, Deen's fans have rallied in support.
One of the first to come to her aid was none other than her son, Jamie Deen (who happens to have his own show on the Food Network called "Home for Dinner"). On Friday, he tweeted, "A heartfelt thank y'all to those who have sent love and support for mom and our family. #pray."
The momentum continued when Deen's fans created a "We Support Paula Deen" Facebook page, which has already garnered nearly 300,000 "likes."
And her loyal band of followers doesn't stop there. Angry messages are popping up on The Food Network's Facebook page, as many fans threaten to switch off the channel for good. "So good-bye Food Network," one viewer wrote. "I hope you fold like an accordion!!!"
Interestingly, however, it's not just Deen's most die-hard fans who are standing by her side. Joe Marinelli, president of Visit Savannah's tourism organization, sounded off on Twitter. "OK, I'll do it: what @Paula-Deen did was wrong. But she's part of our @Savannah family and I'm here to support her."
And perhaps the most surprising supporter (so far) is John McWhorter, an associate professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, who defended Deen in an op-ed for Time magazine, declaring this fiasco "a witch hunt."
Perhaps it was these unexpected signs of support that gave Deen the confidence to rebook her "Today" show appearance and face Lauer head-on.
"She has told us she will be here this time," Lauer announced during Monday's broadcast. Deen is scheduled to appear on Wednesday.
It should be a good fight show.
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