The butter has hit the pan again for Food Network star and cookbook author Paula Deen. The National Enquirer was the first to report that Deen admitted to having used the N-word in a deposition for a lawsuit brought against her by a former employee. The entire deposition was filed into the court record as part of the lawsuit.
Full disclosure: I’ve been to her restaurant, The Lady and Sons, in Savannah, Ga., and bought an apron that reads, “Country Cooking Makes You Good Looking.” I wear it when I bake.
I decided to spend some time reading the deposition transcript, which was full of tidbits about the workplace environment. (I do these things so you don’t have to, but if you are so inclined: the official transcript of the deposition).
That close read turned up some things of, well, some interesting things. Below, a few excerpts for your edification. The attorney asking the questions is Matthew Billips. He represents Lisa Jackson, a former employee of Paula Deen Enterprises. All the answers are Deen’s.
Paula was not married to a sausage.
Q. OK and what was your first husband’s name?
Q. And his last name?
Q. No relation to the sausage?
Paula’s brother, Earl “Bubba” Hiers, is all up and through this thing — and not in a good way.
Q. Did any of the things that your brother admitted to doing, including reviewing — reviewing pornography in the workplace, using the N-word in the workplace, did any of the conduct cause you to have any concerns about him continuing to operate the business?
A. No… And just because he’s got a sense of humor does not make him a bad person or incapable of running a business.
Q. Now, does his sense of humor include telling jokes about matters of a sexual nature?
A. We have all told off-colored jokes.
Q. OK. Does his sense of humor include telling jokes of a racial nature?
A. I’m sure those kinds of jokes have been told. Every man I’ve ever come in contact with has one.
Paula has used the N-word in the past, but “things have changed since the ‘60s.”
Q. Have you ever used the N-word yourself?
A. Yes, of course … But that’s just not a word that we use as time has gone on. Things have changed since the ‘60s in the South.
Haters gonna hate.
Q. Do you have any reason to believe, any basis on which to suspect that these people might want to sabotage you or sabotage your brother?
A. Not to my knowledge, but as — as my success grew, I realized that people can experience an emotion called jealousy.
An employee, Karl Schumacher, is very judgmental.
A. Karl is the most judgmental person I know. And out of every team member on our team, he is certainly the most prejudice (sic)….he is a one-man jury.
Her second husband, Michael Groover, gets a mention, too.
Q. Were you ever aware…that Mr. [Bubba] Hiers was viewing pornography in the workplace?
A. No. I know that men are really, really guilty of sending inappropriate jokes to each other. My husband would be under the jail if that were a sin right now.
Paula has meetings in the bathroom, just like President Lyndon B. Johnson!
Q. And…where was that meeting?
A. It was probably in my bathroom…my bathroom is off of my bedroom and there’s a sofa and two chairs, and it’s a bathroom/den combination.
Paula is not massaging your hurt feelings. No.
Q. Have you ever used that term as a way of describing making someone feel better, to massage them?
A. No, I massage my meat and I massage my husband sometimes, but that’s about the only time I use that word.
Anybody can work up front in Bubba’s restaurant.
Q. When you and Mr. Hiers started Uncle Bubba’s Seafood, was a decision made to hire only whites to work in the front of the restaurant?
A. No…Bubba and I, neither one of us, care what the color of your skin is or what is between your legs, it’s what’s in your heart and in your head that matters to us.
N-word usage tips. And more jokes.
Q. …One of the things that you had tried to — that you and your husband tried to teach our children was not to use the N-word in a mean way…could you give me an example of how you have demonstrated for them a nice way to use the N-word?
A. We hear a lot of things in the kitchen. Things that they — that black people will say to each other. If we are relaying something that was said, a problem that we’re discussing, that’s not said in a mean way.
Q. What about jokes, if somebody is telling a joke that’s got —
A. It’s just what they are, they’re jokes.
Q. Would you consider those to be using the N-word in a mean way?
A. That’s … kind of hard. Most — most jokes are about Jewish people, rednecks, black folks. Most jokes target — I don’t know, I didn’t make up the jokes, I don’t know. I can’t, I don’t know. They usually target, though, a group. Gays or straights, black, redneck, you know, I just don’t know — I just don’t know what to say. I can’t, myself, determine what offends another person.
It’s not all black and white for Paula.
Q. If you had been there on a daily basis, it’s unlikely your brother would have been looking at pornography on the work computers, too, would you agree?
A. No, not necessarily.
Q. Would you have a problem with it if he’s sitting there at work looking at pornography?
A. If someone sent him something and he pulled it up and looked at it, no, I would not persecute him for that.
Q. What if there were other employees in the office at the time that he pulled it up and looked at it?
A. You know, that’s not black or white. It’s — that’s — it’s not a black and white answer … Bubba, I don’t think, would ever do that if he thought there was somebody in the room that he — it would insult.
Another bathroom meeting, wedding plans, and the Civil War era?
Q. Was Lisa ever present when you discussed with Brandon what kind of wedding you’d like to have?
A. I don’t recall that. I recall — I do recall, once again, in my bathroom at that house and why we would have been in that bathroom, I was probably filming and changing clothes, that’s the only reason we would have been in that bathroom, they must have run out during my lunch break or something from filming, and I remember us talking about the meal.
And I remember telling them about a restaurant that my husband and I had recently visited. And I’m wanting to think it was in Tennessee or North Carolina or somewhere, and it was impressive. 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, it was really impressive.
And I remember saying I would love to have servers like that, I said, but I would be afraid that somebody would misinterpret.
Q. If you would have had servers like that, why would that have made it a really southern plantation wedding?
A. 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 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.
Q. Back in an era where there were middle-aged black men waiting on white people.
A. Well, it was not only black men it was black women … I would say that they are slaves. But I did not mean anything derogatory by saying I loved their look and their professionalism.