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Food Network won’t renew Paula Deen’s contract

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Carlo Allegri / AP

Celebrity chef Paula Deen poses for a portrait in New York.

Updated Friday, June 21, 2013 | 2:43 p.m.

SAVANNAH, Ga. — The Food Network said Friday it's dumping Paula Deen, barely an hour after the celebrity cook posted a videotaped apology online begging forgiveness from fans and critics troubled by her admission to having used racial slurs in the past.

The 66-year-old Savannah kitchen celebrity has been swamped in controversy since court documents filed this week revealed Deen told an attorney questioning her under oath last month that she has used the N-word. "Yes, of course," Deen said, though she added, "It's been a very long time."

The Food Network, which made Deen a star with "Paula's Home Cooking" in 2002 and later "Paula's Home Cooking" in 2008, weighed in with a terse statement Friday afternoon.

"Food Network will not renew Paula Deen's contract when it expires at the end of this month," the statement said. Network representatives declined further comment. A representative for Deen did not immediately return phone and email messages seeking comment on the decision.

The news came as Deen worked to repair the damage to her image, which has spawned a vast empire of cookbooks, a bimonthly cooking magazine, a full line of cookware, food items like spices and even furniture.

She abruptly canceled a scheduled interview on NBC's "Today" show Friday morning, instead opting for a direct appeal via online video — one that allowed her and her staff complete control of what she said and how she said it.

"Inappropriate, hurtful language is totally, totally unacceptable," Deen said in the 45-second video posted on YouTube. "I've made plenty of mistakes along the way but I beg you, my children, my team, my fans, my partners - I beg for your forgiveness."

The online video allowed Deen and her staff a direct appeal to viewers and complete control of what she said and how she said it. Deen adopted a solemn tone as she looked straight into the camera. Still, her recorded apology featured three obvious edits — with the picture quickly fading out between splices — during a statement just five sentences long.

"I want to apologize to everybody, uh, for the wrong that I've done," Deen says as the video begins. "Uh, I want to learn and grow from this."

Deen initially planned to give her first interview on the controversy Friday to the "Today" show, which promoted her scheduled appearance as a live exclusive. Instead, host Matt Lauer ended up telling viewers that Deen's representatives pulled the plug because she was exhausted after her flight to New York.

Court records show Deen sat down for a deposition May 17 in a discrimination lawsuit filed last year by a former employee who managed Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House, a Savannah restaurant owned by Deen and her brother, Bubba Hiers. The ex-employee, Lisa Jackson, says she was sexually harassed and worked in a hostile environment rife with innuendo and racial slurs.

During the deposition, Deen was peppered with questions about her racial attitudes. At one point she's asked if she thinks jokes using the N-word are "mean." Deen says jokes often target minority groups and "I can't, myself, determine what offends another person."

Deen also acknowledged she briefly considered hiring all black waiters for her brother's 2007 wedding, an idea inspired by the staff at a restaurant she had visited with her husband. She insisted she quickly dismissed the idea.

But she also insisted she and her brother have no tolerance for bigotry.

"Bubba and I, neither one of us, care what the color of your skin is" or what gender a person is, Deen said. "It's what's in your heart and in your head that matters to us."

AP Television Writer David Bauder contributed to this story from New York.

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  1. Really?

    Robert Irvine lies about his resume and gets a second show... Paula goes on an apology tour about comments made years ago, and they dump her?? HGTV will snap her up before the month is out....

  2. More & more, the US is becoming like Nazi Germany or Red Russia with its "word police" mentality. I have never watched the Food Channel so, obviously, I have never seen the woman's show and, until this article, had never heard of her, but firing someone for using the English language is more obscene then whatever the woman said. When did "offending" someone trump their Constitutional right of free speech? If that holds, then why is the anti-Semitic Jesse Jackson (you know, the guy who raised a criminal son) still around and why did MSNBC put the rabble-rousing, race-baiting, court-proven-liar Al Sharpton on the air? Daily, I am offended by the loons on the left and their complete disregard for my Constitutional rights but that doesn't mean I want to abrogate theirs in return. They're screwballs as far as I'm concerned and should be taken to task verbally by those who oppose their lopsided thinking, but that's as far as it should go. As for Deen, I hope she sees how far her crawling on her knees to placate the leftists got her. I think less of her for her craven mewlings then I do for what ever it was she said!