Food Network Thought Crimes

[Now that is a headline I never conceived of having to use.]

"Love your cooking, Paula, but that joke you laughed at in 1996 means that you're racist scum. Rot in Hell."

“Love your cooking, Paula, but that joke you laughed at in 1996 means that you’re racist scum. Rot in Hell.”

Paula Deen, Southern cuisine star of the Food Network, has been fired because of the public uproar after she admitted in a law suit deposition that she had, on occasion and in the past, used the term “nigger” and tolerated racist jokes. This outburst of honesty (she was under oath at the time) apparently justifies social network hatred being directed her way in waves, and Jake Tapper, on CNN (WHY do I keep watching CNN?) conducting an inquisition this afternoon in which he asked third parties whether formerly using “the N-word” means Deen is a racist.

I don’t give two hoots about Paula Deen or her career. I watch the Food Network about as often as I watch MSNBC or YES.  She has always seemed more than a little bit silly and dim to me, and the reasons for her popularity elude me. But if there are many Americans who grew up in the South when Deen did who never used “nigger” and who never laughed at a racist joke, I’ll be shocked. That isn’t a “everybody does it” excuse. That is a “stop condemning people who reflected their narrow culture until they gained some perspective and wisdom” explanation. My father grew up in Kentucky in the 20’s and 30’s. Do I think he would have answered a deposition the same way Deen did? I sure do, and if one percent of those attacking Deen now possess sufficient integrity, honesty and essential fairness to be worthy of licking my Dad’s combat boots, I’ll be even more shocked. Dad is hardly the only admirable individual who spoke this way in his younger years. During his successful campaign for the U.S. Senate in Virginia, former Democratic Senator and war hero (and my classmate) Jim Webb bravely admitted that he had also used “nigger” when he was younger, and that crucifying his Republican opponent, George Allen, for similar, long-past indiscretions was unfair. He was right about Allen, and his  defense applies to Deen as well.

Did Deen ever discriminate against someone because of race? Use racial epithets to insult them? Engage in any harmful conduct whatsoever, and no, I really don’t care to debate whether laughing at a guilty sexist, racist, or ethnic joke with friends not in spite of its awfulness but because of it increases tolerance of hate in the world. It doesn’t. If she was admitting to careless and insensitive words at a different time and place without any of those added, meaningful transgressions, then the fury being directed at her now is beyond cruel and unfair. It is a flashing neon orange Golden Rule violation. Who would think it was fair to be punished for admitting that they thought and uttered politically incorrect words in their past? Who believes their career should be ended because of what they might have laughed at years ago, or even yesterday?

What is being done to Deen is cultural bullying of the most despicable kind, by the elitist and intolerant race-grievance bullies who apparently hang out on the cable cooking shows.

Was it fair for the Food Network to fire Deen? I can’t fault the decision. If its management has reason to believe that the same crowd that is calling Deen a racist for what she said in the past will now regard the network as a Ku Klux Klan outpost with yummy sauces if Deen stays around, then it is just making a responsible business decision. It may think what is happening to Deen is unfair, but once she becomes radioactive, the Food Network can’t afford to be loyal. It’s duty is to its audience, jerks though they may be, and the stockholders.

Would this have happened five years ago? I can’t think of a similar incident, but I hope so. I hope so, because if five years of what was laughably once sold as “post racial presidency” has culminated in creating a culture of race-based thought-crime, it is one of the worst bait-and-switches ever perpetrated on America, and one of the ugliest.


Spark: CNN

Facts: NY Times

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at


35 thoughts on “Food Network Thought Crimes

  1. Well, Deen was being sued by a former employee who alleges that she allowed the use racial epithets by management against the employees who worked at Deen’s restaurant, wouldn’t allow black workers to use the front doors, and wouldn’t allow them to use the same bathrooms as the white employees used. So more than just a “thought crime”. Deen also admitted to wanting black people to play slaves at a “southern-style” wedding. I can hardly blame the Food Network for not wanting to be associated with that.

    • “Alleges” in a civil suit means exactly nothing. And I just asked a black actor to play a slave in “Abe Lincoln in Illinois.” Is that racist? I think holding a “Gone with the Wind” themed wedding is dumb, but it isn’t necessarily racist. If you are going to stage productions with slaves, you have to have blacks portray them. And “wanting” is a thought crime.

      • I thought if you wrote about her at all, it would be about her completely non-effective apology. Definitely an example of the “mistakes were made” type of that genre.

        But the transcript of the deposition reads as her taking her own racism very blithely, which is what causes most people to recoil. And I’m much more inclined to believe the employee’s allegations when that is the case. Who wouldn’t? Much like your George Allen example, with his use of the macaca slur, I’m much less willing to grant someone the benefit of the doubt when they haven’t expressed any regret, or in fact try to justify their past racist behavior.

        As far as your Lincoln example goes, there is a big difference in my mind between casting slaves for historical accuracy, and reveling in, or having nostalgia for the days of slavery. The difference between casting Jewish people for Schindler’s List, and having your own concentration camp theme wedding, with you and your guests playing the German guards, and the wait staff as the Holocaust victims. One scenario understandable, the other completely contemptible.

        • You’re free to believe whoever you want to, but that’s why there is a trial—that matter is in doubt, and the trier of fact will decide. Deen DID express regret, later, in various ways. I don’t give much credence to that, one way of the other. Have you ever been deposed? That’s not the place to express misgivings or any other emotion. You answer the question, truthfully, period.

          “The difference between casting Jewish people for Schindler’s List, and having your own concentration camp theme wedding, with you and your guests playing the German guards, and the wait staff as the Holocaust victims. One scenario understandable, the other completely contemptible.”

          What an awful analogy. GWTW is a romantic novel and classic movie, set in Georgia, and if a Georgia woman is influenced to think having a Tara-type wedding is romantic, it’s stupid, but not a significant breach of character. I’m sure there would be black actors happy for the paycheck, and royally pissed if she were to hire white actors to play the slaves instead.

          • So because a racist movie is romantic, it’s ok? Even at the time of its release, GWTW was decried for its racism. It is hard to see as anything but a propaganda, apology film for the slavery system. The sentiment is contained right there in its opening scroll, ““There was a land of Cavaliers and Cotton Fields called The Old South…Here in this pretty world Gallantry took its last bow…Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their ladies fair, of Master and of Slave…Look for it only in books for it is no more than a dream remembered. A Civilization gone with the wind.” While I believe the film was masterfully done, a film where Ku Klux Klan members are supposed to be the good guys, one can hardly ignore the racism in favor of the “romance”. It is a character failure to have a wedding based on the slavery plantation system, as if one can handwave all the whippings, rapes, dehumanization, and overwhelming human misery away in favor of “romance”.

            • It’s NOT a racist movie. If you want to think that, go ahead—the claim is nonsense, and not worth debating. It’s a romance that takes place in the pre- and post- Civil War South, and not about race at all. The most admirable character in the movie is Mammy, for heaven’s sake. Your comment is like claiming that those Henry the 8th banquet dinner establishments that re-enact the Tudor castle atmosphere can’t “wave away” Henry’s brutality, rapes and executions. Sure they can. It’s fantasy, just like GWTW. And judging a 1930s, pre-civil rights era Hollywwod film by current standards is cultural hind-sight.

              • It was protested as being racist At. The. Time. So no, it isn’t 20/20 hindsight, or judging the movie from a modern perspective. Though is “Birth of a Nation” a racist movie? Under your criteria, I would guess not. Does a movie have to be “about race” to be racist, or are racist depictions enough?

                Mammy is the stereotypical “faithful slave” of racist literature from that time, who has no inner life besides that of her white charges, and lives to serve, even after slavery has ended. I believe GWTW is a fantasy, but a racist fantasy, a nostalgia for a system that relied greatly on human brutality and suffering to endure. Having black people dress up as slaves for your fantasy wedding is just as macabre, and should be just as unthinkable, as having concentration camp victims dress up as wait staff, or Henry VIII’s beheaded wives sing a merry tune at your nuptials(though I suppose you could make a half-hearted argument that the scale was much smaller and of limited duration in Henry’s case, but it would still be completely inappropriate). You’re doing it wrong.

                • Oh, right, deery, there were pickets at every showing. Were there some ideologues and, like you, cultural scolds who wanted to use a best-selling popular novel, and a good one, as agenda fodder? A few. “It was protested” by a tiny, insignificant sliver, because, in fact, there was nothing racist about the movie, including the portrayal of Prissy (having one idiotic character is not a stereotype, and more than Scarlett’s silly sister is an anti-white stereotype.) We are talking the movie, not the novel, and in the movie, as portrayed by Hattie McDaniel, a terrific actress and educated woman, Mammie was no archetype, but a maternal figure. Presumably, after the war, she is paid as a domestic servant, and that is a completely reasonable choice for her under the circumstances.

                  Railing about GWTW is knee-jerk liberal masturbation. It’s a good movie about an idealized version of the Old South. People who don’t like it are free to ignore it. Comparing a superb and harmless piece of popular entertainment to a KKK promotion-piece made by an avowed racist, like “Birth of a Nation” is both unfair and misleading.

                  • Jack and Deery – I think you need to take both your perspectives and braid them into a stronger truth, Which is what it should be. Jack I understand your feelings about this but you’re taking a very long walk on a short pier to make And justify your point.
                    ‘History belongs to the victors,’ and agreed-upon half-lies reflected out into the public. Look at the way so many groups are trying to retool children schoolbooks, mainly in Texas. Compare that with Holocaust deniers – Not the same caliber of evil, but the same general idea.
                    Throughout history, Different groups of human beings have been forced into a reality not of their choosing… And it’s happening all over the world today as well. That is an undeniable fact that many of us don’t talk about because we want our cheap Nike shoes and our iPhones that can make flapjacks.
                    For us human beings to truly evolve to our ultimate potential, we must know the truth about ourselves in every aspect Of our history, No matter how horrible. We must learn from our mistakes, not to yearn to return to a time when any one group subjugated another. And I would venture to say that 90% of our real true history that has happened on planet earth has been Intentionally suppressed destroyed or reeducated into the masses as something else, To fit to whoever holds the power at that time’s agenda.
                    Therefore, that you both are correct –.However Jack you need to recognize that there is a certain propaganda behind your feelings, and Derry , You need to accept that at certain points in time people are blind to what they perceive as normal and correct behavior On their part, Should be conveyed but in context.
                    Hard to articulate. and this is voice recognition software by the way.

    • The problem is that it isn’t about “…not wanting to be associated with that,” it is about “Who decides when someone’s life should be destroyed?” Your employer may not like something you do in your personal life. Should they be allowed to fire you for literally ANYTHING you do outside of work that they find objectionable?

      If you get a parking ticket, your employer may find that offensive and not want to be associated with you. Should they be allowed to fire you for that? What if you’re innocent, and are found so in court? Do you still deserve to be fired?

      Paula Deen is awful, but until there’s evidence she’s discriminated against someone in the physical world, punishment is a bit premature. Hell, we allowed Strom Thurmond to stay in Congress, but we can’t allow Paula Deen to have a shitty cooking show?

      • The problem is that it isn’t about “…not wanting to be associated with that,” it is about “Who decides when someone’s life should be destroyed?” Your employer may not like something you do in your personal life. Should they be allowed to fire you for literally ANYTHING you do outside of work that they find objectionable?

        With “at will” employment, that is exactly what that means. I’m sure Deen had a contract however, and the Food Network was smart enough to include the appropriate clauses. However in this case, Deen technically wasn’t even fired, the network just declined to renew her contract that expires soon. There are a ton of chefs out there, and it is hardly surprising that the network does not want to be associated with a notorious one. Another network out there might make a different calculation, if it so chooses. Capitalism at work, y’all.

  2. I always thought she was kind of cute and endearing… And I’m a sucker for really cool looking gray hair. I think this is the dirty little secret of being southern. Coming from a “Border state” Of Missouri, growing up in the suburbs I wasn’t really Privy to prejudice. But when I went to college and Columbia at the University of Missouri I had a number of experiences with the old South. Unpleasant to say the least.
    I think a lot of people either get stuck in their Evolution or get lazy. And I think education is the key. Prejudice is a totally learned behavior. But So is tolerance and acceptance. And Altruism. And benevolence. And a rising tide needs to raise all boats, no matter what color.

  3. So… what Robert Irvine did is worse, right? Lying on his resume? And they welcomed HIM back after a few years. So… maybe it’s not the end of the world.

    • Saying something stupid when it was more the norm is a bigger crime, don’tcha know? /sarcasm

      Just as big reasons are that her ratings seem to have been dropping and she’s associated with being overweight, that even fewer cut a break. This was the more acceptable reason.

        • “tony soprano: Oh, right…right…o’ course. What’d you check?
          noah tannenbaum: African American.
          tony soprano: So we do understand each other; you’re a ditsoon.
          noah tannenbaum: Excuse me?
          tony soprano: Charcoal Briquette…a mulignan.
          noah tannenbaum: What’s your problem?
          tony soprano: I think you know what my problem is. You see your little friend up there. She didn’t do you any favors bringing you into this house. Now I dunno what the fuck she was thinkin’, we’ll get to that later. See I got business associates who are black and they don’t want my son with their daughters and I don’t want their sons with mine.
          noah tannenbaum: Fuck you!
          tony soprano: See, that’s the kind o’ thing I’m hopin’ to avoid. So when my little girl comes down the stairs, you’re gonna say how nice it was to meet me, then you’re gonna go drop her off at school and you’re gonna say Goodbye.”

  4. This is actually a tip of the hat to frequent commenter tgt, for something he said (my apologies, tgt, if I used the wrong pronoun there) about “nigger” awhile back: What disturbs me most about cultural acceptance of euphemisms like “n-word” is that it forewarns of likely acceptance of additional absurdity, such as reluctance to use (not just in speech, but in all manner of behavior) another “f-word” – freedom.

  5. “Railing about GWTW is knee-jerk liberal masturbation.”
    Exactly right.
    It’s what I call “hysterical racism”.
    I hear it – I immediately know what I’m dealing with and move on.

  6. I attended a wedding in PA late in the 80s.
    It was held in a very old theatre.
    The theme was The Old South.
    Basically the dress was Old South (think huge skirts and parasols), the decor was Old South, the music was similar to that time period and the entire wedding party waltzed to many of the songs.
    No slaves that I can remember, no civil war soldiers, either.
    No one thought it was racist.

    Of course, during the 1980s, the self-hating white hysterical liberal sheep was strictly the stuff of nightmares and nothing more.
    Today we have all manner of media to whip them into a lathered frenzy so they will see racism around every corner.
    If it wasn’t so sad it might be funny.

  7. I was a bridesmaid at an old plantation in the late 90’s. The entire wedding was white (the bridal party stayed overnight in the renovated slaves quarters). The staff was black and in costume dressed as house slaves. I was uncomfortable. Later in the evening I asked some of the waitstaff about it, and they quietly told me that they hated doing it but that they needed the work. (Then I felt awful about asking about it at all — I don’t ask other low wage earners about whether or not they like their jobs, they are obviously doing it because they need the money.) I’ve read numerous interviews of black actors who said the same thing about roles they had in old Hollywood movies. Similarly, now latino or other actors of color consistently have to take roles as terrorists, drug smugglers, etc. If that’s what Hollywood is writing, that’s the role you have to take. Is GWTW a racist movie — I guess that it is in the sense that slavery is more than a bit glorified in the film. I doubt that it would be remade today. Compare that movie with the made-for-TV North and South in the 1980s. It was also a romance (you were rooting for the Southerners Ory and Madeleine to get together), but it in no way glorified slavery.

  8. Pingback: Paula Deen or Casting the First Stone « Ethics Blog

      • [W]hen asked if she wanted black men to play the role of slaves at a wedding she explained she got the idea from a restaurant her husband and her had dined at saying, “The whole entire waiter staff was middle-aged black men, and they had on beautiful white jackets with a black bow tie.
        “I mean, it was really impressive. That restaurant represented a certain era in America…after the Civil War, during the Civil War, before the Civil War…It was not only black men, it was black women…I would say they were slaves.”

  9. I believe in forgiveness of sin. Jesus died for our sins. He died for Paula Deen’s sins too. Forgiveness also requires repentance. One reason this country, and in particular the South is cursed with the demonic spirit of racism is because there has never been true repentance of slavery and the racism it perpetuated. Germany repented of Nazism. Nazism is not romanticized in Germany. Movies aren’t made depicting the gallantry of SS officers in uniform on the Eastern front or home from leave on holiday. Germany understands that violations of human dignity can never be glamorized or excused as being a product of the time or culture. Good and evil transcends time and place. Not all Southerners supported slavery and segregation. Some Southerners always knew that racism was evil and never used the N word, just as some Germans always knew Nazism was evil. There is nothing romantic about the systematic dehumanization of millions of human beings for upwards of 350 years. Slavery was evil. Segregation was evil. Recognize it and rightly censure people like Paula Deen that don’t fully grasp the Golden Rule.

  10. People seem to miss the point that Scarlett was a very young teenager who viewed the South as a sheltered and pampered daughter. The war hurried her into a foolish marriage before she had any chance at wisdom or insight. Watch the movie and see how much this oblivious child manages to learn before she turns thirty.

  11. If the Food Network chose to can an employee on an ethics violation why do they now bring Martha “I can do it better” Stewart into the limelight? Martha has been convicted of multiple felonies, was publicly abusive to her husband, and hired an army of lawyers to have her gardeners declared farm labor to excuse her underpaying them. In a recent interview a Food Network representative stated that ratings had naturally gone up since ridding themselves of less attractive chefs and hiring attractive cooks like Giada. This is a great game plan for the Competitive BBQ pass me a beer channel or the Queen for a day cupcake network. Suddenly this weirdly competitive food channel is here to make peoples dreams come true, confirm ones self respect and earn a parents pride. I miss Mario Batali and Emeril. For useful cooking advice today. stick with Lydia et al on PBS.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.