The Paula Deen saga changes every day, with sponsors coming down on one side or another and luminaries of all stripes weighing in. Deen received words of support from one of the most dignified sources — former President Jimmy Carter. That’s right, the 39th president and a fellow Georgian has spoken up on the N-word controversy, stating that the public should forgive Paula Deen. Coincidentally, this also marks the first time I’ve agreed with Jimmy Carter on anything:
Former President Jimmy Carter said embattled celebrity chef Paula Deen should be forgiven, arguing that while there’s no condoning the racial slurs she uttered, the well-known personality has been candid and apologetic.
“She was maybe excessively honest in saying that she had in the past, 30 years ago, used this terrible word,” Carter told CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux in an interview Friday. “I think she has been punished, perhaps overly severely, for her honesty in admitting it and for the use of the word in the distant past. She’s apologized profusely.”
Carter mentioned Deen’s programs in Savannah, Georgia, that benefit “almost exclusively oppressed and poverty stricken black people.” He advised her to get people she’s helping to speak up and “show she’s changed in her relationship with African-Americans.”
“My heart goes out to her but there’s no condoning the use of a word that abuses other people,” he said. “I’ve known Paula Deen quite well for a long period of time; I advised her to let the dust settle and make apologies.”
As sponsors continue to drop Deen and distance themselves from her, Deen’s fans are responding in unusual ways. Foodie site Stitches ‘n Ditches — whose creator is clearly in Deen’s camp — reports:
…fans of the host of three popular Food Network television shows have taken to social media, and U.S. mail in support of the Queen of Southern Cuisine. Pre-orders of Deen’s latest cookbook, “Paula Deen’s New Testament: 250 Favorite Recipes, All Lightened Up” skyrocketed over the last few days [note: this was before Ballantine Books cancelled the book's publication - CQ] along with sales of Deen’s popular cookbook collection, kitchen and housewares, and home furnishings.
“It was a spur of the moment thing,” the founder of the fan page, John Schmitt told Stitches ‘n Dishes. “I was listening to what’s going on and thought, ‘this is ridiculous.’” Schmitt, 49, the lead night auditor for a major hotel chain in Indianapolis, Indiana recalled when fans sent over nine tons of peanuts to CBS when it announced the cancellation of “Jericho” in 2007.
“I thought everyone should send an empty butter wrapper to Food Network and Scripps,” he said. “And now I guess I’m doing some planning.”
With an increasingly large base of Deen supporters rallying together on the world’s largest social media platform comes an extraordinary force capable of delivering a very strong message to sponsors and partners who have parted ways with the Deen camp.
Fans have also continued to flock to Deen’s restaurant, The Lady & Sons, in Savannah. A friend of mine who was vacationing in Savannah on June 30 told my via Twitter, “We tried to eat lunch at The Lady & Sons today, but they were booked solid & at her store it was wall to wall people! Definitely a surge of people from ALL backgrounds.”
Stitches ‘n Dishes made an impassioned plea for support for Paula Deen’s charitable organization, The Bag Lady Foundation, and has also listed the sponsors who still support Deen:
The list of those supporting Paula Deen and Paula Deen Enterprises far surpasses the list of those who do not. Partners and sponsors who remain in the Deen camp or have made public statements of support include:
Alice Travel/Royal Caribbean Cruises
Metropolitan Cooking Demo
Springer Mountain Farms
Knoxville Wholesale Furniture
Club Marketing Services, Arkansas
Metro Cooking Show Dallas
New York City Wine & Food Festival
Paula Deen has definitely had the bumpy ride lately, and the twists and turns look to continue. As the saga continues to unfold, we’ll keep you posted on what’s going on.