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What Do Southerners Think of Paula Deen?

In a photo from 2011, diners wait outside The Lady and Sons for their turn to enjoy Paula Deen's food. In a photo from 2011, diners wait outside The Lady and Sons for their turn to enjoy Paula Deen's food.

WTOC, a Savannah-based news station, interviewed other patrons at The Lady and Sons.

Paula Deen's fans are standing behind her and urging forgiveness after the Food Network decided not to renew her contract in the wake of her admission that she used racial slurs.

"I'm able to forgive her because we do it in our own culture, and you guys do it in your own culture," Atlanta resident Sophia Starnes said after having dinner at The Lady and Sons. "You have words that you use for each other, and that's why I don't take it so personal because I know that's not who I am."

Starnes says she comes to the Lady and Sons every time she visits Savannah and doesn't plan to stop. Friends who joined her for dinner echoed the support.

"Was it right, no," China Smith said. "I mean, she could have used another term. But hey, it was a mistake that she made."

Tourists thronged the restaurant, as they do every night and say they're deeply disappointed to learn that Deen has lost her show.

"She made a mistake and she said that, and I think maybe we ought to take that for what it's worth," Dean Gibbs, of Spartanburg, S.C., said before dinner at The Lady and Sons.

Starnes acknowledged the seriousness of the epithet but said, "I think this is a learning lesson for her as well as for the people who do forgive her."

In Columbus, on the other side of the largest state east of the Mississippi, residents had mixed reactions to the controversy:

News Leader 9 met with Constance Surratt, a senior sales associate in The Book House. The local bookstore employee said many customers purchased Paula Deen's cooking books frequently; and Surratt still believes that the Southern chef's cookbooks will continue to sell fairly well.


Other residents of Columbus had different opinions. Latasha Carrigan, a Columbus State University student, said she is still a big fan of Paula Deen. She used to watch her shows to learn more about cooking. However, Carrigan said that she would have a hard time purchasing Paula Deen's cooking books anymore.

"Even though I love her, I probably will not look into her recipe books anymore," Latasha Carrigan said. "I don't know if I can support her as much as I did before. There are consequences for what you do. I mean, I know it happened 20 something years ago, and I know I've forgiven her as well. But it's hard to look at her the same way."

Another resident, Janta Marshall, said she supports Paula Deen, regardless of the racial slurs she made years ago. Marshall works as the food nutrition manager for Columbus High School, and she says it is easy to lose patience and self-control in a stressful environment.

"I have been in the food and beverage industry for 25 years. I do not think that many people understand the level of stress the workers from this business receive. The stress causes you to say things you do not really mean, and I do not think Paula Deen is a racist for saying the N-Word," Marshall added. "I mean, I cannot tolerate the fact that she made racial slurs. I think that's quite disrespectful, and I don't appreciate what she said. But she's just a person, and I think the media has blown this way out of proportion. Paula Deen did a great job on the Food Network, and she should get it back."