Paula Deen, the Southern celebrity chef who has made delicious comfort food and down-home charm her trademark, is in headlines this week after a lawsuit filed by a former employer accused her of using the “N” word and making other racist comments. Portions of the deposition have been leaked online, and now the entrepreneur and restaurant owner is receiving some backlash for statements she made regarding African Americans.
Former Paula’s Oyster House employee Lisa Jackson says Deen used racial slurs and that her brother, Bubba, sexually harassed her and also made racist comments. In a portion of the deposition released yesterday, Deen admitted to the slurs but said it happened a long time ago, not recently as Jackson claims.
Lawyer: Have you ever used the N-word yourself?
Paula: Yes, of course.
Lawyer: Okay. In what context?
Paula: Well, it was probably when a black man burst into the bank that I was working at and put a gun to my head.
Sidenote — Paula was held up at gunpoint during a bank robbery in 1986.
Lawyer: Okay. And what did you say?
Paula: 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?
Paula: Absolutely not.
Lawyer: Well, then, when did you use it?
Paula: Probably in telling my husband.
Lawyer: Okay. Have you used it since then?
Paula: 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?
Paula: No, no.
Lawyer: Well, then tell me the other context in which you’ve used the N-word?
Paula: I don’t know, maybe in repeating something that was said to me.
Lawyer: Like a joke?
Paula: 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.
Deen’s lawyer says his client is looking forward to having her say about her comments.
“Contrary to media reports, Ms. Deen does not condone or find the use of racial epithets acceptable,” her lawyer, Bill Franklin said. “She is looking forward to her day in court.”