UPDATE: 6/24 4:01 p.m. -- Rev. Al Sharpton's spokeswoman reached out to The Huffington Post and said her client did not defend Paula Deen, but rather made the point that Deen should be judged by the present-day information being litigated in court, and not by something she said 27 years ago. "There is more current information that is being divulged that we might need to be concerned about," she added.
Reverend Al Sharpton spoke out on the controversy surrounding Paula Deen, saying she should be held accountable for acts committed now and not those committed 20 years ago. The disgraced celebrity chef is in the midst of a media firestorm following the revelation she admitted to using a racial epithet.
Lisa T. Jackson, a manager at Deen's Savannah, Ga., restaurant, filed a lawsuit against Deen and her brother, Earl “Bubba” Hiers, last year for sexual harassment and racial discrimination. In a May deposition, Deen admitted to using the N-word in the past and to planning a "southern plantation-style wedding" with black servers. Since the testimony surfaced, Deen has been fired by the Food Network, and her deal with QVC is in limbo.
TMZ caught up with Sharpton and asked for his opinion on the debacle.
"A lot of us have in the past said things we have regretted saying years ago," he replied. "I think she has a lawsuit now about activities now whether it was discriminatory. And whether or not she's engaged in things now. It's not about her past. ... She deserves what's fair, but that's based on what she's engaged in now."
"You cannot deal with what is fair or not fair until we see an outcome of the present circumstances she is accused of, not something that happened 20 years ago," he added.
Sharpton isn't the only one who has offered his two cents on the unfolding drama. Deen also received unlikely support from comedian Bill Maher.
"If you're 66 years old, and you were raised in Georgia, and you were a child before the civil rights movement, do you get a bit of a pass?" he asked on his show Friday, adding, "I also think that people shouldn't have to lose their shows and go away when they do something bad. ... It's just a word, it's a wrong word, she's wrong to use it. But do we always have to make people go away?"
Pastor Gregory A. Tyson Sr., an African-American pastor at First Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church in Savannah, also came to Deen's defense. He told local station WTOC the chef is a friend to him and to the black community. Using the N-word, he posits, does not automatically make her a racist.
Deen apologized in three video recordings released in the aftermath of the testimony leak, originally published by the National Enquirer. She begged for forgiveness and insisted she and her family are being misjudged by the press. She will address the public again in a "Today" show appearance Wednesday, after failing to appear for her "Today" interview last Friday.
Language in this post has been updated to reflect a statement from Sharpton's spokeswoman.
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>.