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Steve Coomes: Paula Deen’s Food Network dismissal goes well beyond racial slurs

by Steve Coomes

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Paula Deen, longtime TV hostess of “Cooking with Paula Deen,” is no longer working with the Food Network, the television production company responsible for her immense popularity and superstardom.

Deen’s lucrative and lengthy contract with the company was not renewed this month after she admitted in a deposition that she’d used the n-word many years ago.

At least myriad people think that’s the reason the relationship ended.

Because that’s how press outlets have reported it: sloppily and lazily, with just enough effort to gather click-throughs and eyeballs on headlines — because we know readers don’t go much further than that, right?

Sadly, that’s too often the case, but it’s okay because it’s about as far as some reporters dig these days, as we’re seeing with the past-due public pillorying of Paula Deen.

Here’s the reality of the situation: According to a lengthy nine-count complaint filed 27 months ago against Deen, Paula Deen Enteprises, LLC, The Lady & Sons, LLC, The Lady Enterprises, Inc., Earl W. “Bubba” Hiers (her brother) and Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House, Inc., there were far worse things happening under her ownership of those companies: Alleged years of sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and battery perpetrated by ol’ Bubba, who ran one of her restaurants—or ran off with the profits, according to the lawsuit.

Is it just me, or do such charges make using a racial slur seem insignificant by comparison?

Though no complaints of harassment or battery are filed directly against Deen, plaintiff Lisa T. Jackson, a Caucasian, long-term manager at Uncle Bubba’s, claims Deen and all company officials were aware of the problems yet did nothing to correct them.

What’s curious is how the press has chosen to ignore the truly nauseating allegations in the suit and instead glommed onto Deen’s use of the n-word because it’s a hot-button word, a horrible slur that leaves some gritting their teeth and, sadly, some grinning.

When the media can sink its claws into “Deen the Star,” it love to blacken the presses with accusations that she’s really a bigot.

Like sex, slurs sell, baby!

Worse, if you’re the Food Network and she’s a star, an advertising draw, a literal and figurative gravy making machine, you don’t say a thing.

It appears you don’t even ask your buttery-accented TV star if she knew Uncle Bubba was (allegedly) also a porn-addicted Uncle Pervy who was drunk on the job and abusive to his staff.

Not when she’s Pawluh Deen, the baroness of buttuh and marketing matron of several marginal casino buffets. (On June 25, Horseshoe Casino in Elizabeth, Ind., severed ties with Deen, whose name is on its restaurant buffet.) You let that big-toothed bankroll keep on working, singing the praises of sugar in front of your cameras—and sobbing about her Type II diabetes on other stations.

You just ignore it for two years.

Brent Musberger makes one innocuous (but kind of “creepy uncle”) comment about University of Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron’s girlfriend during the BCS Championship game and people are screaming for his head.

Never mind that high-profile black comedians and rappers use the n-word with impunity – apparently it’s no big deal if you’re black. (Though that’s slowly changing.) For a white person, it’s a career killer.

As it arguably should be.

Yet a lawsuit filed 27 months ago against Platinum Paula gets slathered over in gravy by the Food Network until somebody says, “Hey, that lady said the n-word! We’ve got to do something about this!”

But shouldn’t the hurt employees, and what surely will be a nasty lawsuit against her companies, have been the real issues?

Not according to Eater.com writer Paul Forbes, who wrote, “Food Network star Paula Deen has released a video statement concerning testimony in which she admitted to using racial slurs (among other things).”

Among other things?

As if knowingly allowing brother Bubba to sexually harass and discriminate against employees was “other things” compared to a racial slur?

Huffington Post saw it similarly: “Paula Deen Fired: Food Network Cancels Show After Racism Scandal.”

Entertainment Weekly — yeah, I know, a real bastion of hard news — wrote, “Home shopping corporation QVC has announced that (sic) are “reviewing [their] business relationship with Ms. Deen” in the wake of the Paula Deen scandal of the past week where she admitted to using racial slurs.”

ABCNews.com and NBC.com wrote nothing, though CBS.com wrote, “Paula Deen admits to racial slur.”

And Deen is playing right along, too, apologizing for using inappropriate and hurtful language, but not saying a thing about her drunk, bigoted, boorish brother and the fact that she did nothing to rein him in.

Or, perhaps her lawyer is advising her, “Don’t say a thing about that white trash brother of yours,” because as we all know, you can use racial slurs against your own race. No one cares about that, right? (I digress.)

Worse, thousands of fans are defending The Lady, saying her use of the slur was, in essence, “no biggie” because anyone living in America has, at some time and in some context, used the n-word.

Well, how she used it is a biggie in my book, yet it’s still small compared to what allegedly happened for years while Paula was peddling pralines.

Too bad the mainstream press and Dean’s fans are willfully glossing over those truly disturbing issues.

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