Paula Deen has lost her endorsement deal with Smithfield Foods, well-known makers of Smithfield Hams.
The trouble started when Deen was named a defendant in a lawsuit brought by Lisa Jackson, a former employee who alleged that employment at Deen's restaurant was tainted by both sexual and racial improprieties. In a deposition in that matter, Deen admitted using the “N word” in the past, specifically in reference to a burglar she’ d encountered in 1986. Jackson claims that Deen and her brother Bubba had both used the term in her presence.
These revelations have sent Deen’s career into a tailspin. On Friday, the Food Network announced it would not renew Deen’s contract at the end of the month. In a damage control effort, Deen hastily posted three apology videos to YouTube (including one that was quickly taken down and one that was a direct apology to Matt Lauer for missing a scheduled interview).
Now Smithfield, which has sponsored Deen since 2006, is cutting ties. “Smithfield condemns the use of offensive and discriminatory language and behavior of any kind,” said Keira Lombardo, company vice-president. “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.”
Despite Deen’s spectacular fall, it’s a bit surprising that sponsors are so quick to back off, given that Deen’s legions of fans have gone for Food Network’s throat ever since the firing. After Food Network made the announcement, fans took to the network’s Facebook page to express outrage. A recent Food Network Facebook share about zucchini casserole elicited almost exclusively vitriolic commentary about the decision to drop Deen—and very little about zucchinis.
Since Smithfield doesn’t make a canned ham, I couldn’t sneak in a stupid canned-by-the-canned-ham joke. So, instead, I’ll leave you with the knowledge that Deen eats balls of pure butter—and also gives them to her grandson.