Paula Deen's longtime publicist Nancy Assuncao left her job at the beginning of December for then-unexplained reasons. Today, though, the New York Post reported that Assuncao left the company when she learned that her employer planned to endorse Victoza, a diabetes drug manufactured by pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, after hiding her diabetes for three years. The Post quotes Assuncao, “Although we had a great deal of fun along the way, I could not agree with the new business strategy going forward. Nonetheless, I wish them continued success.”
There's no doubt that Assuncao is no longer Deen's publicist. On December 6th, she sent an email to many of her press contacts, including HuffPost Food, saying that she was no longer representing Paula Deen. The note begins:
Dear Friends, in addition to wanting to wish you all a great holiday season, I'd like to take the opportunity to let you know that effective this month I am no longer representing the divine Ms. Deen.
After close to six years, I have decided that it's time to move in another direction. It has been an incredible journey and I'm quite proud to have been a part of the Deen Team.
I will continue representing Bobby and Jamie Deen, both of whom have new shows premiering on the Food Network in January and April.
No one has yet gotten Deen's side of the Assuncao departure story, so it's possible that there are other factors that contributed to her departure. (Deen's team is on a Paula-themed cruise in the Caribbean right now, so they have not been responding to press inquiries.)
Assuncao initially said -- as indicated above -- that she planned to represent Paula's sons, the hosts of healthy cooking show "Not My Mama's Cooking." But Bobby and Jamie Deen have opted, since that email was sent, not to work with her. Assuncao told the Huffington Post, "They ultimately decided to go with their mother's new representative."
"I had an amazing six years with Paula. We did great work together and built a terrific brand," she continued. "But this is her business and she has every prerogative to make these decisions. I respect her decision and wish her well.
It's also easy to imagine that Assuncao would not have wanted to represent Paula in the wake of her announcement. The press reaction has been overwhelmingly negative up to this point, so it would no doubt be stressful, and distressing, to represent Paula amidst all the coverage. Even Deen's fellow celebrity chefs have not come to her defense.
And it's not like the negative press is showing any signs of letting up. Commentators continue to weigh in on the topic, the latest being former New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni, who dedicated his most recent column to Deen. He described her failure to come clean about her diabetes for three years as "a profound, unsettling act of withholding" -- though he also noted that many in the food business practice subtler, but no less insidious, forms of deception.
UPDATE: It turns out that opinions like Bruni's aren't even the worst news Deen's gotten in recent weeks. The Daily, the publication that originally broke the rumors that Deen was about to announce her diagnosis, last Thursday, is now reporting both that Paula has high blood pressure and that she will make $6 million over two years for her work promoting Victoza.