There are many lessons to be learned from the deposition Paula Deen gave in May, 2012, during a lawsuit filed against her for sexual/racial harassment lawsuit.
Interrogated by Matthew C. Billips, the attorney for the plaintiff, Lisa Jackson, Deen responded as follows:
Q. Now, does [your brother's] sense of humor include telling jokes about matters of a sexual nature?
A. We have all told off-colored jokes.
Q. Okay. Does his sense of humor include telling jokes of a racial nature?
A. I’m sure those kind of jokes have been told. Every man I’ve ever come in contact with has one.
Mistake #3: Deen acknowledged that off-color jokes were told in her workplace, and that she was clearly aware of it.
Mistake #4: Deen made light of the telling of jokes that the vast majority of employers would not tolerate in their workplaces.
Q. Okay. Miss Deen, have you told racial jokes?
A. No, not racial.
Q. Okay, have you ever used the N-word yourself?
A. Yes, of course.
Mistake #5: She knew that the charge of racial discrimination stood at the very heart of the lawsuit facing her.
Yet, when asked if she had ever used the “N-word,” she replied, “Yes, of course,” as if this were the most natural thing in the world.
Q. Okay. In what context?
A. Well, it was probably when a black man burst into the bank that I was working at and put a gun to my head.
Q. Okay, and what did you say?
A. Well, I don’t remember, but the gun was dancing all around my temple. I didn’t…feel real favorable towards him.
Q. Okay. Well, did you use the N-word to him as he pointed a gun in your head at your face?
A. Absolutely not.
Q. Well, then, when did you use it?
A. Probably in telling my husband.
Mistake #6: What is discussed between husband and wife is protected legally as marital privilege. Her attorney should have objected and told her not to answer the question.
If she had not admitted to using it privately with her husband, she might not have been asked if she had used it since then.
Q, Okay. Have you used it [the "N-word"] since then?
A. I’m sure I have, but it’s been a very long time.
Mistake #7: Having admitted she used it in the past, she compounds her mistake by admitting she had used it since.
Mistake #8: There is an entirely legal way to avoid incriminating oneself–and being prosecuted for perjury. It’s contained in the words: “Not that I can recall.”
Q. Can you remember the context in which you have used the N-word?
Q. Has it occurred with sufficient frequency that you cannot recall all of the various context in which you’ve used it?
Q. Well, then tell me the other context in which you’ve used the N-word.
A. I don’t know, maybe in repeating something that was said to me.
Q. Like a joke?
A No, probably a conversation between blacks. I don’t–I don’t know.
Mistake #9: The vast majority of restaurant kitchens are staffed by blacks or Hispanics, whose exchanges are often obscene and homophobic.
If Deen had said she had quoted such a conversation between employees, she could have legitimately claimed she did so entirely for the sake of accuracy.
She could have blamed them for using the N”-word,” and cast herself strictly in the role of reporter.
A. But 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.
A. As well as I do.
Q. Are you aware that your brother has admitted to using that word at work?
A. I don’t know about that.
Mistake #10: She had previously admitted to attending her brother’s deposition, where he admitted to, among other offenses, using the N-word in the workplace.
So this is a direct contradiction of her earlier admission.
Q Okay. Now, if you had learned of Mr. Hiers engaging in racially or sexually inappropriate behavior in the workplace, what, if any, actions would you have taken?
A. I certainly would have addressed it.
Mistake #11: Previously she had been asked: “Did any of the things that your brother admitted to doing, including…using the N-word in the workplace, did any of that conduct cause you to have any concerns about him continuing to operate the business?”
And she had replied: “No.” So this amounts to yet another contradiction.
Q. Have you ever addressed Mr. Hiers’ racially or sexually inappropriate conduct?
Mistake #12: She admitted to having learned about her brother’s use of the “N-word” in the workplace–and then admitted to having never addressed it.
Q. And you are aware of his admitting to engaging in racially and sexually inappropriate behavior in the workplace in his deposition in this case?
Mistake #12: This directly contradicts her previous admission that she had learned of his engaging in such behavior during his deposition.