Butter Can't Make This Better, Y'all

With tensions boiling over Paula’s Deen’s racist deposition, many culinary experts claim the Southern food matriarch’s career is cooked. Could any of these last-ditch efforts save Paula’s empire?

Paula DeenTaking her lumps

A few brief YouTube videos do not an appropriate apology make. Paula’s first, and perhaps most important, step toward saving her image is to truly own up to her misgivings. The cooking maven should offer a heartfelt apology, through words and actions. First up? Actually following through on her scheduled interview with Matt Lauer. Yes, he will ask her difficult questions. Yes, he will probably reduce her to tears. As they say, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. People need to know that Paula genuinely feels regret and guilt over her actions — not because of how they are affecting her, but how they have affected others. Allowing Matt Lauer to rake her over the coals a bit will go a long way toward convincing the world she's accepting culpability.

Cutting the apron strings

Back when Paula’s career first began and she was known as the “Bag Lady,” she enlisted her sons to help her peddle sandwiches door to door. Now, Jamie and Bobby help Paula run the family’s immensely popular Savannah restaurant, The Lady & Sons. And last year, both sons premiered their own cooking shows. Jamie’s Home for Dinner with Jamie Deen, which has been favorably received by fans, airs Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. on The Food Network. Bobby’s take, the Cooking Channel’s Not My Mama’s Meals, focuses on reinventing Paula’s recipes in far more waistline-friendly ways. For years, Jamie and Bobby have been making cameos on Paula’s Home Cooking and Paula’s Party — with both sons now successful hosts in their own right, the matriarch's best bet may be to become the one in the Deen family making the guest appearances.

Serving herself up to Oprah

By all accounts, Paula enjoys an easy rapport with Oprah. Over the years, Deen guested several times on The Oprah Winfrey Show and, more recently, Oprah's Next Chapter — the two were always affable, always entertaining. So when the news broke of Paula’s scandal, many wondered what might be going through Oprah’s head. “Oprah, believe it or not, is the first person I thought about when I heard the statement,” said talk show personality Wendy Williams. “I said, ‘I wonder if her black friend Oprah knows about this statement?’ I wonder if Oprah’s been privy in person to hear Paula use this and if she’s ever talked to Paula about it.” Why not give her that chance? Evangelia Souris, president of Optimum International Center for Image Management, suggests, “I think she would be well-advised to sit down with a respected African-American journalist. I think that it creates the perception of courage and going into the lion’s den, and that would serve her well.”

Stepping away from the skillet

Clearly, a certain degree of irreparable damage has already been done to Paula’s career. The Food Network declined to renew her contract, and it's possible other sponsors will likewise bail on the bawdy cooking maven. Outside of public apologies, Paula probably just needs to lie low for a while. Prior to the current backlash, she garnered praise outside of the kitchen for her charitable endeavors — even being described by Robert F. Kennedy’s widow, Ethel Kennedy, as a blend of “Dolly Parton, Wolfgang Puck, and Mother Theresa.” Throwing herself into her philanthropy will serve two greater purposes: It will fulfill the needs of the less fortunate and provide Paula time out of the limelight for deep introspection and reflection about her actions. Having just launched this May, The Bag Lady Foundation — which Paula created to “provide hope, inspiration and support to women and families during their time of need” — is still in the stages of infancy and, therefore, could benefit from more attention.

Image courtesy of DJDM/WENN.com

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Comments on "Can anything get Paula Deen out of hot water?"

MARY FENTON July 15, 2013 | 6:56 PM

Let me say this!!! in the bible when Jesus met a women that that the town people was going to stone her to death Jesus said let the first one with no sin though the first stone , and they all let. Sometimes the tongue speaks before the brain shuts it off. GOD BE WITH YOU PAULA....

Sally July 06, 2013 | 6:52 PM

This is getting very stupid. White people are not the only people with prejudice. Ruining a woman's life for saying a word that is 20 years old is so very prejudice. Are you going to destroy everybody's career that has said a prejudice such as ------ or -------, that we have just had to endure because WHY? You may say that's not bad, but when said it still a prejudice against race! This has to stop or we will never have equality. Get a life and stop blaming!!!!!!!!

Lin July 04, 2013 | 12:30 AM

Ellie Mae, she did NOT say she wanted a "bunch of little -------." She SAID she would like the waiters dressed up like the Black waiters (who were professionals) at another party she was at. She liked the style of dress. Another thing, in Shirley Temple's heyday, there was a very famous tap dancer (who was fabulous), and who was Black.

Olivia June 29, 2013 | 7:03 AM

Take it from someone who has visited Paula Deen's restaurants...she is NOT racist! Why would someone want to employ MANY African Americans if they're racist! Think about it. If you were a wealthy and famous woman and you could basically hire anyone you want to come work for you, would you hire African American's if you hate them? I don't think so! It sounds like she is a very loyal person that kept a lot of the same employees that she had before she became rich and famous.

Sue June 27, 2013 | 3:50 PM

I think it is a pretty sad situation,that a person be allowed to go to court to ask a judge to award them thousand of dollars because of a word that African - Americans call each other everyday! Theses people really need to get a grip.. Remember,"Sticks an stones may break my bones,but, words will never hurt me" I hope they know God is watching them"

Brett June 25, 2013 | 5:51 PM

This whole debacle is ludicrous at best. This whole outrage over something that was said by a southern woman living in the south in the 60s. ----, the word in question was commonplace during that time frame. Paula has stated many times that the word is one that does not get used in anyway shape or form and hasn't for many, many years. If the word itself is so offensive, why do black individuals refer to one another by this derogatory term about every 35 seconds? As far as letting Matt Lauer rake her over the coals; I see no point in doing so. Matt Lauer is a hypocrite as well as an arrogant,pompous ---. She has recommitted to doing the "Today Show" but, it won't change the fact that this whole witch-hunt was orchestrated by money hungry individuals and carried on by companies that refuse to shy away from standing behind anything or anyone,

Pat Cusumano June 25, 2013 | 5:49 PM

I would like to see Oprah pick up Paula Deen's shows. It would be a win-win for everyone!

Cindy June 25, 2013 | 12:51 PM

Seriously what someone said 20 years ago is going to make this big of a deal???? Who cares! Lets take a look at the person filing the lawsuit, trying to get something for nothing!

Lostdawg June 25, 2013 | 11:48 AM

Like Paula Deen, I, too, was raised in a segregated Georgia in the '50's and 60's. My father was a detective with Atlanta PD during the race riots. Not just Paula, but virtually everyone of that era in the South was exposed to bigotry and racism by their own family members. The use of the N word in those days was common in all walks of life. Not to say it is right, but it took me many years of attending college and working with African Americans to truly understand that they were equal in every way and that good people were simply good people. I have a hard time understanding why Paula is being grilled to this extent while others like Mel Gibson and Alec Baldwin continue to be accepted. She apologized, she knows she was wrong, and hopefully with time, she will be excused for her impropriety.

Elaine June 25, 2013 | 8:26 AM

Thank you Gary, It saddens me to see mankind still having an innate need to destroy others due to jealousy or plain hate. I agree about your comment that 20 years ago everything was different. Forgiveness has never changed. When someone realizes their mistake and apologizes then there is growth for that person and the people that witnessed the failure and accepted the request for change...the apology. Who hasn't done something and regretted the action later in life. All of us. I think its time to reach out and show forgiveness for past ideas or actions. Stop perpetuating hatred. Start by publicly accepting the apology and see what happens.

brzz June 24, 2013 | 6:08 PM

Are you for real? This goes beyond her using a racial slur 20 years ago. This is all coming to light because of the racism she continues to show againt her AA employees. I'm sorry, but just because you were raised in a racist environment, it does not give you Carte Blanche to harass and degrade human beings based solely on skin color.

Tracie June 24, 2013 | 5:54 PM

I do love and support Paula Deen. It is wrong to discriminate and make inappropriate remarks about anybody. But if this happened a long time ago, why wasn't something done or said about it then?? I haven't seen that brought out. Paula is now well known and has more money. So go figure. I don't condone in any way what she has done, but she publically apologized for it and admitted wrong. That being said, what about other offensive language in music, movies and television? Should the ones involved apologize, too?? I wonder who at the Food Network will laugh when the next dirty joke is told?? Shame, shame and shame on you, Food Network!!!! You too will be judged!

Michelle June 24, 2013 | 5:34 PM

Sean, To try and compare the context of the use of such language with white men, who are always privileged, is a huge misstep. Come again with something that makes sense. To try and ignore the history of the word juxtaposed with Ms Dean's romanticism of the Civil War era is sadly a apart of the mindset of many whites. You're doing yourselves a misservice to yourself and humanity by doing such. It's more than using the n-word. Her refusal to refer to slaves as "workers" for her grandpappy; and that the slaves on her grandpappy's plantation were "just like family" is so idiotic. She just doesn't get it and maybe this can educate millions.

elliemae June 24, 2013 | 4:26 PM

” Well what I would really like is a bunch of little ------- to wear long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties, you know in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around. Now, that would be a true Southern wedding wouldn’t it? But we can’t do that because the media would be on me about that.” Paula Deen, 2007 In her lawsuit, Jackson recalled helping the celebrated chef plan the 2007 wedding of her younger brother and business partner Earl “Bubba” Hiers. She says Deen wanted “a true southern planta­tion-style wedding.” Jackson claims in her court documents that she asked Deen what type of uniforms she wanted the servers to wear, and she says Deen answered: “Well, what I would really like is a bunch of lit­tle ------- (N-word) to wear long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties…you know, in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around.”

Sean June 24, 2013 | 4:20 PM

Yes,the truth.If she said this over 20 yrs ago while being held at gun point by a thief,the world needs to get over itself.Also stop using the word,if it bothers so many people so much then quit saying it.I find it odd that you don't see a group of white men sing or talking or sitting around and calling each other -----,or saying "that's my -------".How stupid does that sound?

Gary June 24, 2013 | 2:49 PM

this is insane to attempt to destroy a persons livelihood because of something she said many years ago. Everyone knows that attitudes in general have changed over the years and what was accepted 20 years ago has changed. We have come a long way. But there are people that do not forgive and want to destroy and perpetuate the hate between the races. And the suggestion that she must go to Oprah or jessie or Rev Al is insane. Are these people the representatives for all black people. Stop perpetuating hate and anger by trying to bring down someone for something that occured many many years ago.

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