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June 21, 2013 at 12:16 PM

Is Paula Deen racist? Speaking up in her defense

Celebrated chef Paula Deen (AP Photo/Carlo Allegri)

Celebrated chef Paula Deen
(AP Photo/Carlo Allegri)

 Update: The Food Network confirmed Friday that it will not renew mega chef Paula Deen’s contract at the end of June. The decision came after Deen apologized for using racial epithets in the past. Network executives obviously talked to a few big advertisers and decided riding out the overblown controversy was not worth the financial costs.

There are many reasons to turn away from Deen.  In an era when no one should be ignorant to the fiscal and health costs of unhealthy eating, Deen has built a profitable empire atop a mound of butter, fat and sugar.

I was not surprised when Deen announced she had Type 2 diabetes. I was surprised she was still alive. I’ve always pictured her arteries as clogged roadways where nearly nothing gets through. At some point, even the oxygen gives up.

People have been muttering angrily about Deen since she combined her diabetes diagnosis with a lucrative endorsement of a drug used to treat it.

Now she’s jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire after  admitting in a legal deposition to using racial epithets. A former manager at Deen’s restaurants in Savannah, Ga., is suing Deen and her brother for sexual and racial harassment, saying that Deen tolerated racist jokes. Suddenly, an adoring nation has erupted in furor. Social media has been the biggest outlet for the “Paula Deen is a racist” crowd. On Twitter, #paulasbestdishes is meant sarcastically, not a resource for her Southern food recipes.

Only Deen knows if she harbors racist views. The rest of us ought to do one thing: Note the context of reports about her. She had used racial epithets. Decades ago. Indeed, her company released a statement underscoring the time in American history when Deen used a racial epithet:

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Comments | Topics: food, race