Celebrity chef Paula Deen needs a new PR recipe to escape the hot water over racial remarks.
The 66-year-old from Savannah, Georgia admitted during a sworn deposition last month she has used the N-word. The deposition involves a lawsuit from a former employee who is suing for alleged sexual and racial harassment at Deen’s restaurant.
In 2012, Forbes estimated Deen’s annual earnings at $17 million so she stands to lose millions as sponsors cut ties with her.
Deen’s 13-minute appearance on The Today Show Wednesday produced a glaring contradiction in her story. She told Matt Lauer she only used the N-word once in her life — during a bank robbery in 1986. But in her deposition, when asked if she’s used the word since the robbery, she replied, “I’m sure I have, but it’s been a very long time.” She also said there is a mean and “non mean” use of the word. When asked if it is mean to use it in a joke, she said, “Depends on how it’s used in a joke.”
Deen did tell Lauer “every one of God’s creatures was created equal” and that many “hurtful lies” are being circulated about her. Her tearful appearance did arouse sympathy in and support from many viewers, while many others remain unconvinced.
1- Set the record straight on her use of the word
2- Condemn any use of the offensive term
3- Stop suggesting her problems are a result of “sabotage”
4- Settle the lawsuit. Its disclosures will add fuel to the story.
5- Take effective racial sensitivity training
6- Have African Americans who believe in her speak up for her
Deen is a genuine “rags to riches” story and Americans appreciate the fact people have evolved over the years on racial understanding. But Deen needs to cook up a much better response or her empire will get scorched.
The writer, a former TV anchor/reporter, is a crisis communication expert and media analyst. Don’t hesitate to contact him for help.