Celebrity cook Paula Deen said in a deposition related to a trial stemming from discrimination charges that she has freely used the word “ni**er” in the past but that she does not condone racism or hate. “The Today Show” confirmed Thursday what many on the Internet were claiming, that in the deposition, when asked if she had used the slur, Deen replied, “Yes, of course,” but added, “It’s been a very long time.”
A former employee named Lisa Jackson is suing Deen and her brother Bubba Hiers, alleging that the pair operated a discriminatory workplace at Hiers’ restaurant Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House. Jackson alleged that black workers were forced to use separate bathrooms than white employees and were routinely discriminated against in other ways, including repeatedly having to hear racist slurs. Jackson also said that she was sexually harassed.
Deen was deposed May 17 by an attorney working for Jackson. The lawyer asked Deen when she had used to slur, to her memory. Deen said that she was held up by a black robber when she worked as a bank teller in the 1980s. The cook, famous for her butter-drenched, health-be-damned approach to Southern food, said that she probably called the bank robber the slur when she recounted the story to her husband.
She insisted that now she would never use the word in a “mean” way, though.
“But that’s just not a word that we use as time has gone on,” Deen said. “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.”
“Bubba and I, neither one of us, care what the color of your skin is,” Deen said in her deposition. “It’s what’s in your heart and in your head that matters to us.”
She justified her reportedly salty humor by saying that virtually all humor is cruel to someone.
“Most jokes are about Jewish people, rednecks, black folks,” she said, according to “Today.” “They usually target, though, a group. Gays or straights, black, redneck, you know, I just don’t know — I just don’t know what to say. I can’t, myself, determine what offends another person.”
Deen has long drawn fire from critics for her high-fat, high-calorie recipes. Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain called her “a destructive influence” on American cuisine and on people’s health.
“She revels in unholy connections with evil corporations and she’s proud of the fact that her food is fucking bad for you,” Bourdain said to TV Guide. “If I were on at seven at night and loved by millions of people at every age, I would think twice before telling an already obese nation that it’s OK to eat food that is killing us. Plus, her food sucks.”
Deen revealed that she has Type II diabetes in early 2012, although she was diagnosed years before. Detractors accused her of hiding the illness until she received a lucrative endorsement deal for the diabetes drug Victoza.
Earlier this month, Deen released a line of signature flavored butters, which are available at Walmart.