Paula Deen has been called for a deposition in connection with a lawsuit filed by a former employee at the Savannah, Georgia restaurant she co-owns with her brother Earl "Bubba" Hiers. The celebrity chef, 66, was questioned about her alleged use of racial slur and jokes.
Deen admits she may have used N-word but insists it was a long time ago. "That's just not a word that we use as time has gone on. Things have changed since the '60s in the south. And my children and my brother object to that word being used in any cruel or mean behavior. As well as I do," she says.
Of telling jokes, the "Paula's Best Dishes" star says, "It's just what they are, they're jokes." When asked if she considers jokes using N-word to be "mean," the queen of Southern cooking replies, "That's kind of hard. Most -- most jokes are about Jewish people, rednecks, black folks."
The Food Network star adds, "They usually target, though a group. Gays or straights, black, redneck, you know, I just don't know. I can't, myself, determine what offends another person."
Lisa T. Jackson, who allegedly quit working at Deen and Hiers' Lady & Sons and Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House due to hostile environment rife with innuendo and racial slurs, claims Hiers sexually harassed her. She also alleges Deen once planned a "slavery"-themed wedding.
When asked about this, Deen admits she wanted to hold a "really southern plantation wedding." She says she was inspired by her visit to an upscale restaurant in another state but she quickly dismissed the idea out of fear that it would give a wrong impression.
"The whole entire wait staff was middle-aged black men, and they had on beautiful white jackets with a black bow tie. I mean, it was really impressive. And I remember saying I would love to have servers like that, I said, but I would be afraid somebody would misinterpret."
When asked "why would that have made it a really southern plantation wedding," Deen replies, "Well, it - to me, of course I'm old but I ain't that old, I didn't live back in those days but I've seen the pictures, and the pictures that I've seen, that restaurant represented a certain era in America."
"After the Civil War, during the Civil War, before the Civil War," she adds. "It was not only black men, it was black women. ... Yes, I would say that they were slaves. ... But I did not mean anything derogatory by saying that I loved their look and their professionalism."
When asked about the accusations against her brother, Deen says, "My brother and I have had conversations. My brother is not a bad person. Do humans behave inappropriately? At times, yes. I don't know one person that has not. My brother is a good man. Have we told jokes? Have we said things that we should not have said, that -- yes, we all have. We all have done that, every one of us."
The transcript from Deen's deposition has leaked. Her lawyer quickly issues a statement, "Contrary to media reports, Ms. Deen does not condone or find the use of racial epithets acceptable. She is looking forward to her day in court."
As controversy arises, Food Network's spokesperson says, "The Food Network does not tolerate any form of discrimination and is a strong proponent of diversity and inclusion. We will continue to monitor the situation."