In 2012, Celebrity Chef Paula Deen was sued by a former employee for sexual/racial harassment.
For Deen, the deposition she filed in May, 2013, proved to be the worst mistake of her life.
Interrogated by Matthew C. Billips, the attorney for the plaintiff, Lisa Jackson, Deen responded as follows:
Q. Are you aware of [your brother, Earl "Bubba" Hiers] admitting that he engaged in racially and sexually inappropriate behavior in the workplace?
A. I guess.
A. If I was sitting here I would have heard it.
Mistake #13: She admits once again to having been apprised of her brother’s offensive behavior.
Earl “Bubba” Hiers
Q. Okay. Well, have you done anything about what you heard him admit to doing?
A. 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.
Mistake #14: She admitted to having talked with her brother about his offensive behavior–but she did not say she did anything to stop it or punish him for it.
Q. You said you have had such conversations with [your brother]. When did you do so?
A. When Karl told me he was stealing, I addressed that with Bubba.
Q. And as a result of Mr. Hiers stealing, he received a pay increase and the money he had taken was recharacterized as wages, is that correct?
A. I don’t know how it was settled. I know that Karl was paying Lisa Jackson more than my brother was being paid, so if there was a salary increase, it would have been long overdue.
Mistake #15: She admitted that even though she learned that one of her employees was stealing from her, she had nevertheless retained him.
Speaking of her employee, Karl Schumacher, Deen said:
A. Karl is the most judgmental person I know. And out of every team member on our team, he is certainly the most prejudice.
Mistake #16: She admitted that she had retained an employee who was openly prejudiced toward a wide range of people.
MackWorks, a business consulting firm, conducted an investigation of Uncle Bubba’s, which was owned by her brother, Earl “Bubba” Hiers.
A. I didn’t read the report.
Q. Okay. And what, if any, investigation have you done to determine if it is your brother who is lying, as opposed to Miss Jackson and Mr. Schumacher and the people at MackWorks?
A. I know my brother. I know his character. If I ask him something, he would not lie to me, nor would I to him. There was nothing to investigate.
Mistake #18: After an independent consulting firm gives her a scathing report about her brother’s restaurant, she didn’t read it.
Mistake #19: She admitted she didn’t read it.
Mistake #20: She admitted she took no action to discover the truth for herself: “There was nothing to investigate.”
* * * * *
The media has focused its attention on Deen’s admission to having used the “N-word.” But clearly she was running a dysfunctional operation–replete with alcoholism, racial prejudice, sexual harassment and theft.
Much has been made of Deen’s serving as an ambassador of Southern culture and cooking. But if only some of the accusations made against her hold up, she must also serve as an ambassador of a South decent Americans want to forget–and forever put behind them.
That was definitely an era when blacks knew their place–which was as slaves in the kitchens or fields of the Southern planter class who owned them.
According to Jackson, those are the days Deen would love to return to.
Deen has given lip service to knowing that the days of Southern racism are past. But according to the complaint filed against her by her former employee, Lisa Jackson, that past remained very much alive:
- Requiring black employees to use separate bathrooms and entrances from whites.
- Holding black employees to “different, more stringent standards” than whites.
- Allowing her brother, Earl “Bubba” Hiers, to regularly made offensive racial remarks.
- Allowing Hiers to make inappropriate sexual comments.
- Allowing Hiers to force the plaintiff, Lisa Jackson, to look at pornography with him.
- Allowing Hiers to often violently shake employees.
- Allowing Hiersto come to work in “an almost constant state of intoxication.”
- Enabling Hiers’ behavior by ignoring Jackson’s efforts to discuss his behavior.
- Holding “racist views herself.”
Many of Deen’s supporters have claimed she is the victim of anti-Southern prejudice.
But the truth appears that only in the South could she have run so gigantic and lucrative an empire for so long in such prejucial and dysfunctional fashion.
The wonder is not that the Food Network refused to renew her contract after June, 2013. The wonder is that she has managed to stay in business this long.