Saturday, June 22, 2013

Just Don't Blame The Company

They will always find a way to defend corporate America, won't they?

Actually, it is disingenuous to say "they" without clarifying who "they" is.  In this case it's Fox News correspondent Todd Starnes who, according to Media Matters

is attacking "the liberal, anti-South media" for unfairly "trying to crucify Paula Deen" over her admission in a court deposition that she's used racial epithets.

Todd Starnes, who also hosts a Fox News Radio segment, wrote on his Facebook page that the "liberal, anti-South media is trying to crucify Paula Deen. They accuse her of using a derogatory word to describe a black person. Paula admitted she used the word -- back in the 1980s - when a black guy walked into the bank, stuck a gun in her face and ordered her to hand over the cash. The national media failed to mention that part of the story. I'll give credit to the Associated Press for telling the full story."

Starnes also defended Deen via Twitter, writing: "The mainstream media hates Paula Deen [...] I think it's because most of them don't eat meat."

There is a lot we don't know about the Paula Deen saga, not surprising given that the initial report giving rise to the scandal appeared in The National Enquirer, which never will be confused with The New York Times.  That same New York Times, however, paints a picture of a slightly disreputable individual who in January 2012

announced she had Type 2 diabetes on the same day she endorsed the diabetes drug Victoza and a lucrative collaboration with Novo Nordisk, the drug’s manufacturer. Because she had built her career on a no-holds-barred approach to sugar and fat (creating recipes like a cheeseburger patty sandwiched between two doughnuts and a Better than Sex cake made with cake mix, pudding mix, and heavy cream), she was roundly criticized for encouraging an unhealthy diet for others, hiding her illness and then trying to profit from it.

Exploitation of her fans for financial profit apparently didn't faze The Food Network, on which Deen for most of her eleven years has been a major draw.   Now, however, the network has announced it will

not renew Ms. Deen’s contract when it expired at the end of June. Ms. Deen has faced a volley of criticism this week over her remarks in a deposition for a discrimination lawsuit by a former employee. In the document, she admitted she had used racial epithets, tolerated racist jokes and condoned pornography in the workplace.

It appears that the greatest portion of the uproar has resulted from Deen's use of the "n word," especially in a conversation with her husband following an incident in which, she testified, "a black man burst into the bank that I was working at and put a gun to my head."  Consequently, she stated in response to a follow-up question from the plaintiff's lawyer, "I didn't feel real favorable towards him."  She since has apologized, by video, thrice.

Though Deen paints "the media" with a broad brush, it does appear that liberal bloggers are insufficiently outraged by the incident which gave rise to Deen's use of the epithet.  For instance, Roxanne Gay in Salon comments

Deen went on to explain that she used the word to describe a man who put a gun to her head during a holdup at the bank where she worked, as if this should justify the epithet. As Deen noted, she wasn’t feeling “real favorable towards him.” That’s fair enough. No one would feel favorable toward a man holding a gun to their head. But one sin, however more grave, should not justify another.

But we have no evidence Deen attempted to justify her terminology, only to explain it.  And "that's fair enough" isn't enough.   Had Deen disarmed the offender and used the weapon on him after he had raised his arms in surrender, that would be a "sin" which "should not justify another."  Short of that, her response- after the incident- to nearly having her head blown off was less racist than restrained.

Still, it is unsurprising that the Food Network, owned by Scripps Networks Interactive, would choose to cut ties with the cook/chef.   (Her program this morning reportedly was pre-empted.)  Unsurprising, but wrong. Scripps, which last reported quarterly earnings of $108 million, chose not to endure the fallout which would have come their way for re-upping Deen, a pang of conscience the company lacked when their star was shilling for a drug company. Nevertheless, in defending Deen, Starnes did not criticize the enterprise, which has chosen not to re-sign her but instead a "mainstream media" which has no such power.

So Paula Deen will not be on the Food Network but will reappear, on television or otherwise, and reap more millions of dollars, as disgraced celebrities usually do.    Her release will not end her career and she is not a classic victim.  But the emphasis on remarks she has made, most in years past, reveals a classic case of misplaced priorities.

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