Savannah celebrity chef Paula Deen is in the headlines again, this time not for her good deeds but instead comments in a deposition. A former employee suing Deen alleging racism and her lawsuit deposition leaked to national media.
Last week, following up on the latest on the lawsuit, I spent time at the Federal Courthouse in Savannah watching the video deposition and taking notes because the video was not supposed to be made public for 90 days. The only way to view it, according to lawyers and the courts, was to sit and watch it and take notes.
All three and a half hours of it.
Wednesday morning, details from the deposition splashed across the Enquirer to Entertainment Tonight, including accusations of a racist dream wedding and use of the n-word.
Did Paula Deen really say those things in the video deposition?
"According to the new Enquirer, out now, Jackson (Lisa Jackson, former GM at Uncle Bubba's who is suing Deen and Bubba Hiers for harassment and discrimination) once asked Den what she wanted servers to wear for a plantation style wedding and she says Deen answered quote, 'what I'd really like is for a bunch of little n-words to wear long sleeve white shirts black shorts and bow ties.'"
That allegation was brought up in the video deposition WTOC watched, and Deen denied it. She said a visit to a restaurant in Tennessee with her husband Michael impressed her and represented a certain "era in American history."
"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 really impressive. And I remember saying I would love to have servers like that, I said, but I would be afraid somebody would misinterpret," Deen said in the video deposition.
When the attorney questioned Deen about what era she was referring to, he seemed to lead her to say pre-civil war, which lead to the statement.
"Well, it was not only black men, it was black women. I would say that they were slaves. But I did not mean anything derogatory by saying that I loved their look and their professionalism," Deen said.
Deen did not deny using the n-word in jokes or in anger in the past, but said it had been a long time. When asked to identify the race of the servers, she replied, "I don't usually use African-Americans. I try to go with whatever the black race is wanting to call themselves at each given time. I try to go along with that and remember that."
The original basis of the million dollar lawsuit was not race fueled, it was harassment, discrimination and work conditions, including details of Deen's brother, Bubba, showing porn to the plaintiff, Lisa Jackson, from a work computer.
"Anybody can come in and snoop," was Deen's response.
When asked if she knew what discrimination and sexual harassment was, Deen answered, "Coming on to a person I would think. Holding them back because of their sex. I don't know.
I think I would recognize it if I saw it."
We'll have to wait until August for the video deposition to be made public, unless it's leaked before hand. Parts of the transcript and filings, which are coming fast and furious the last week and a half, are already online or part of the public filings.
Paula Deen's attorney, Bill Franklin, released this statement in regards to the latest racism allegations:
"Contrary to media reports, Ms. Deen does not condone or find the use of racial epithets acceptable. She is looking forward to her day in court."
Attorney's for both camps tell WTOC they expect a trial date to be set any day now, with the case going to court before the end of the summer.
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