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Deen explains use of racial epithet in her deposition

Paula Deen

Paula Deen

Celebrity chef Paula Deen, known for her high-calorie Southern cooking, admitted in a deposition that surfaced on Wednesday that she has used racial slurs but her attorney says she does not tolerate prejudice.

A former employee of Paula Deen Enterprises, Lisa Jackson, is suing Deen and her brother Earl “Bubba” Hiers for racial and sexual discrimination in the work place, and the video-taped deposition was related to the suit.

In the deposition, Deen, who is white, was asked if she had used the so-called N-word, a racial epithet directed against African-Americans, to which she responded: “Yes, of course.”

She said she had used the epithet when describing, probably to her husband, how a black man robbed a bank where she was working. She said had used the word since, “but it’s been a very long time.”

The lawsuit filed by Jackson alleges that when discussing with Jackson plans for Hiers’ 2007 wedding, Deen said she wanted a “true southern plantation-style wedding” and used the slur to describe the black men she would want serving at the wedding dressed in white shirts, black shorts and bow ties. In the deposition, Deen said she referred to the race of the servers as black.

The celebrity chef whose recipes have been featured in cookbooks and on popular Food Network shows was also asked if members of her family had told jokes at home using the racial epithet.

“I’m sure they have,” she said in the deposition, made on May 17 in Savannah, Ga. “My husband is constantly telling me jokes.”

When asked if she was offended, she responded “No, because it’s my husband.”

The plaintiff’s attorney, S. Wesley Woolf of Savannah did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Deen’s attorney Bill Franklin of Savannah law firm Oliver Maner LLP, declined by email to discuss the case with Reuters because it was pending in court but has said Deen did not find epithets acceptable.

“Contrary to media reports, Ms. Deen does not condone or find the use of racial epithets acceptable,” Franklin told CNN on Wednesday. “She is looking forward to her day in court.”