On Friday afternoon, the Food Network announced that it was dropping Paula Deen from its network after 14 years on air, after the National Enquirer reported (and The Huffington Post confirmed) that the chef had aired a series of arguably racist comments while being deposed for a lawsuit. But the deposition wasn't the first time that Paula Deen has voiced questionable views on race.
Last fall, I visited the New York Times headquarters to see Paula Deen talk with Times reporter Kim Severson on a variety of topics. When I wrote it up, I focused mostly on her comments about her diabetes, because Deen's endorsement of the diabetes drug Victoza was still hot news. But I also briefly mentioned a strange segment of the talk in which she talked about Southern attitudes toward race. Today, all this talk of her recent racist comments spurred me to revisit the video of the TimesTalk. It's really shocking stuff. Watch the video at the top of this entry for our race-related highlights.
Severson first broaches the topic of race relations after showing a clip from Deen's appearance on "Who Do You Think You Are," in which she visits a large plantation a distant ancestor of hers named Billy had owned. (Along with 30 slaves.) That prompts Deen to talk about the Civil War and the Antebellum South.
Though she ultimately says that the abolition of slavery was a "terrific change," she also takes some time to defend the practice. She says, back then, "black folk were such integral part of our lives, they were like our family," and, for that reason, "we didn't see ourselves as being prejudiced." (The first person plural here raises the question: did Paula Deen herself live in the Antebellum South? Is she a vampire?) It's also worth noting that she takes care not to refer to slaves as "slaves." She generally calls them "these people" or "workers."
And her defense of contemporary race relations is just as bizarre. She thinks the race relations in the South are "good... pretty good." OK. "It will take a long time for it to completely be gone. If it'll ever be gone." Fine. But here's where it starts to get weird. "We're all prejudiced against one thing or another," she continues. "I think black people feel the same prejudice that white people feel." Hmm...
By far the strangest, most awkward moment of the whole talk, however, is when she talks about a black employee of hers named Hollis Johnson. She says that he's become very dear to her in the 18 years she's known him, which is plenty sweet. But then she says points to the jet-colored backdrop behind her and says he's "black as this board." She proceeds to call out to him in the audience and ask him to come on stage, telling him, "We can't see you standing in front of that dark board!" The audience roars with laughter. Severson, shocked, says, "Welcome to New York." And Paula, characteristically, responds, "Welcome to the South."
Or the South as Paula Deen sees it, at least. Which, from now on, will be on view in her cookbooks and the soon-to-open Paula Deen Museum, but not on the Food Network.
Also on HuffPost:
Morning Of June 19: National Enquirer Reports On Racist Statements
On the heels of Paula Deen's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/19/paula-deen-racist-comments-n-word-caught-on-video_n_3467287.html" target="_blank">finishing butters announcement</a>, the National Enquirer claims that it has obtained video of Paula Deen <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/19/paula-deen-racist-comments-n-word-caught-on-video_n_3467287.html" target="_blank">making racist statements</a>.
Afternoon Of June 19: HuffPost Obtains Paula Deen's Deposition
And confirms <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/19/paula-deen-racist-comments-n-word-caught-on-video_n_3467287.html" target="_blank">remarks</a>.
Afternoon Of June 19: #PaulasBestDishes Trends On Twitter
Mixing <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/19/paulas-best-dishes-twitter-reactions-allegations-of-racism_n_3467877.html" target="_blank">recipes with racism</a>.
Evening Of June 19: Food Network "Monitors" The Situation
And <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/20/paula-deen-food-network_n_3471453.html" target="_blank">releases a statement</a>.
Afternoon Of June 20: Questions About Her Future Surface
Is her career <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/21/paula-deen-racist-comments_n_3477536.html" target="_blank">doomed</a>?
Evening Of June 20: Deen Gets Skewered On 'Daily Show'
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/21/daily-show-paula-deen_n_3477924.html" target="_blank">Type II racism</a>, y'all.
Morning Of June 21: Deen Bails On The Today Show
The program was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/21/paula-deen-today-show_n_3477825.html" target="_blank">supposed to have the exclusive</a>.
Morning Of June 21: Matt Lauer Was Not Happy
Nor was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/21/today-show-paula-deen-cancellation-matt-lauer_n_3478187.html" target="_blank">Al Roker</a>.
Afternoon Of June 21: Deen Issues THREE Different Apologies
Things got a little <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/21/paula-deen-apology_n_3479279.html" target="_blank">messy, and sad</a>.
Late Afternoon Of June 21: Food Network Drops Paula Deen
Her contract was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/21/paula-deen-fired-food-network-cancels-show-after-racism-scandal_n_3480517.html?utm_hp_ref=@food123" target="_blank">set to expire</a>.
Evening Of June 21: Paula Deen Fans Erupt On Food Network Page
They are <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/21/food-network-facebook_n_3480903.html?utm_hp_ref=@food123" target="_blank">not happy</a>.
Sunday, June 23: More Allegations Arise
It's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/23/paula-deen-scandal-continues-employees-tell-rainbow-push-alleged-discrimination_n_3484607.html?utm_hp_ref=@food123" target="_blank">not over</a> yet.
Monday, June 24: Smithfield Drops Dean
Other companies still <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/25/paula-deen-smithfield-endorsement-over-company-drops-deen-in-wake-of-racist-remarks_n_3495314.html" target="_blank">mulling their future</a> with Deen.
Tuesday, June 25: Paula Deen Cruise Adds Extra Date
Fans are <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/25/paula-deen-cruise_n_3499047.html?utm_hp_ref=@food123" target="_hplink">standing by her</a>.
Wednesday, June 26: Caesars Drops Deen
They are <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/26/paula-deen-caesars-entertainment_n_3503411.html?utm_hp_ref=@food123" target="_hplink">re-branding her four buffets</a>.
Wednesday, June 26: Deen Gives Emotional Interview
There are <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/26/paula-deen-today-show_n_3501825.html?utm_hp_ref=business" target="_hplink">a lot of tears</a>.
Wednesday, June 26: Walmart Drops Deen
The world's largest retailer said it will not place "<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/26/walmart-paula-deen_n_3505258.html" target="_blank">any new orders beyond what's already committed</a>."
Thursday, June 27: Novo Nordisk Suspends Deen Partnership
The company originally stood by her, but <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/27/paula-deen-novo-nordisk_n_3509855.html?utm_hp_ref=business" target="_blank">no more</a>.
Thursday, June 27: Target Drops Deen
Not <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/27/target-paula-deen_n_3510753.html" target="_blank">too many left</a>.
Thursday, June 27: QVC & Deen Taking A Pause
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/27/qvc-paula-deen_n_3512942.html?utm_hp_ref=@food123" target="_blank">From the CEO</a>: "We all think it’s important, at this moment, for Paula to concentrate on responding to the allegations against her and on her path forward."
Friday, June 28: Kmart, Sears, Walgreens Phase Out Deen Products
Domino effect <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/28/sears-walgreens-paula-deen_n_3516532.html?utm_hp_ref=@food123" target="_blank">here</a>.
Friday, June 28: J.C. Penney Drops Deen
No more <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/28/jcpenney-paula-deen_n_3517744.html" target="_blank">Deen merchandise</a>.
Friday, June 28: Publisher Drops Paula Deen's Newest Cookbook
Even though it isn't out yet and it is <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/28/paula-deens-new-testament_n_3518997.html" target="_hplink">number 1 on Amazon right now</a>.