- Paula Deen is attempting a comeback with a new cooking show.
- The Southern chef was forced off the air and lost most of her corporate partners in 2013, after Deen admitted to using the n-word during a lawsuit over racist harassment.
- Past scandals include allegations that Deen tried to make a cook dress like Aunt Jemima, an interview in which she sympathized with slave-holding ancestors, and a profane blooper reel in which she says a dish smells like “stinky coochie.”
Paula Deen is attempting a comeback after losing her TV show and many endorsements after allegations of racist and otherwise inappropriate actions.
Deen is now starring in “Positively Paula,” a cooking show that began airing on RFD-TV in early January.
Many fans have missed Deen since she was forced off the air after a lawsuit involving reports of racism caused companies to cut ties with the chef in 2013. However, others may find themselves wondering why Deen is being welcomed back to the spotlight after her long list of scandals.
For people who have forgotten why Deen was forced off the air, we’ve compiled a list of the cooking star’s most scandalous moments throughout her career.
Pam Engel contributed to an earlier version of this article.
A bombshell lawsuit led to Deen admitting she used the N-word
In 2013, Deen was sued by the former general manager of her Savannah, Georgia restaurant, Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House. She owned the establishment with her brother, Earl “Bubba” Hiers.
The manager, Lisa T. Jackson, accused Deen of racial discrimination and Hiers of sexual harassment, according to the Savannah Morning News.
While the lawsuit was dismissed, several of the allegations against Deen – as well as things Deen herself admitted to in the lawsuit – led to companies including Kmart, Sears, and Walmart cutting ties with the chef.
While Deen denied racist jokes, she admitted to saying the n-word in the past.
Allegations of Deen’s brother — the restaurant’s co-owner — watching porn at work were also part of the lawsuit
The lawsuit mentioned employee complaints about “Bubba” Hiers looking at pornography at the restaurant and forcing other employees to look at it as well.
In response to questions about whether or not she’d have a problem with Hiers looking at porn at work, Deen said:
If somebody sent [Hiers] something and he pulled it up and looked at it, no, I would not persecute him for that. … Bubba, I don’t think, would ever do that if he thought there was somebody in the room that he – it would insult. … Bubba would never force somebody to read the crap that comes up on that computer.
The New York Times reported further racist acts at Deen’s restaurants, including making an employee dress like Aunt Jemima
Dora Charles, a Black chef who worked closely with Deen, spoke with The New York Times in 2013 about other reportedly racist actions taken by Deen.
Among them was Deen’s attempt to get a Black female cook to dress up like Aunt Jemima, a spokesperson with callbacks with racist minstrel shows. Deen denied the allegations.
She didn’t alert employees when the restaurant at the center of the lawsuit suddenly closed
An employee posted a racist tweet showing Deen’s son in brownface
In 2015, Deen fired an employee who posted a tweet showing a photo of Deen dressed as Lucy, from “I Love Lucy,” and her son, Bobby, dressed as Ricky Ricardo. Bobby was obviously wearing layers of dark face paint, resulting in swift backlash.
The tweet was deleted, and Deen terminated her relationship with the social media manager.
She gave a Times Talk in 2012 in which she sympathized with her slave-owner ancestors.
Deen’s scandals predate the 2013 lawsuit. In 2012, Deen spoke at the New York Times headquarters and talked about her ancestors, who reportedly owned slaves.
She said her great-grandfather had a hard time dealing with the end of the Civil War and the loss of his slaves, whom Deen referred to as “workers.”
She later pulled her friend Hollis Johnson on stage, joked about how she couldn’t see him against “that black board” in the background and called him “my son from another father” to show that Southern attitudes toward race have changed.
She pushed to air a profane outtake video shown before her appearances on a live cooking tour.
In 2012, a profane blooper reel emerged that shows Deen cursing, performing a sex act on an eclair, and saying a dish smells like “stinky coochie.”
Deen reportedly wanted the video screened before her appearances at live cooking events, but the man running the tour refused. He told the New York Post that Celebrity Chef Tours “found it to be unacceptable because it’s certainly not family content.”
In her memoir, she wrote about wanting to name a dish ‘the Sambo burger.’
Producers for one of Paula Deen’s TV shows had to dissuade her from naming one of her dishes “the Sambo burger” after two people named Sam and Beau. The word has a racist connotation and was used to describe black people mostly in the first half of the 20th century.
In her 2006 memoir, Deen also wrote about her regrets about hitting a black girl with a bolo bat to break the blisters on her hands. The girl’s mother went to jail after the incident.
She hid her diabetes from fans and the Food Network until a drug company endorsement deal came through.
In 2012, Paula Deen announced that she has diabetes. She’s known for her calorie-heavy dishes (including desserts), so the news brought some heavy criticism for Deen.
Deen only revealed her diabetes after she signed a seven-figure endorsement deal with drug company Novo Nordisk. She reportedly hid the disease from Food Network executives before she decided to reveal it publicly.
She was targeted by fellow celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, who called her the “worst, most dangerous person to America.”
Bourdain’s tirade against Paula Deen got a lot of attention in 2011. He said in an interview with TV Guide, “She revels in unholy connections with evil corporations and she’s proud of the fact that her food is f—ing bad for you.” He also dissed her cooking.
Deen responded by saying Bourdain “needs to get a life” and that she cooks “for regular families who worry about feeding their kids and paying the bills.”
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