John A. Tures: Hard truths in Deen flap

July 1, 2013 

Everyone's heard about Paula Deen losing corporate sponsors because of some words and activities in the past. But liberals and African-Americans aren't to blame. Here's why.

The whole thing began during a court case, when she and her brother were accused of racial and sexual harassment. Under oath, she admitted to using the N-word, but claimed it was a long time ago.

Paula Deen Enterprises issued a statement adding, "She was born 60 years ago when America's South had schools that were segregated, different bathrooms, different restaurants and Americans rode in different parts of the bus. This is not today." The statement went on to say: "To be clear, Ms. Deen does not find acceptable the use of this term under any circumstance by anyone nor condone any form of racism or discrimination."

On her NBC "Today" appearance she called the person accusing her of using the N-word "evil" and claimed "I is what I is and I'm not changing." She ended the interview with "If you've never sinned … pick up that rock, pick up that boulder and hit me as hard as you can."

After that meltdown, Smithfield Foods, Wal-Mart, Target, and other companies decided to cut ties with her.

Not all are cutting ties with her. Many businesses are sticking by her. I shopped at one, noticed the promotion, and heard from the workers that they have no intention of cutting ties. Her "New Testament" book is up to #1 on Amazon.com. She now has 500,000 new Facebook friends.

She also has some unlikely supporters. Rather than lead a boycott, the Reverend Al Sharpton came to Paula Deen's defense, saying she shouldn't be held responsible for what she said a long time ago. Liberal comedian and commentator Bill Maher also said she shouldn't lose her show for what she said so long ago.

Meanwhile, Wal-Mart and Target (and QVC and Smithfield Foods), which donated to Republican causes, are the ones cutting ties with her. What gives? Are we to conclude that Democrats are the tolerant ones, and the GOP won't allow free speech?

The reason why these Republican-supporting executives came to the decision to cut ties with Paula Deen wasn't because of a liberal backlash or an African-American boycott, given that Sharpton is Ground Zero for such events, and left-of-center folks seem to love Maher's "Politically Incorrect." It is because Deen showed herself to be "going rogue," like Sarah Palin, not being a corporate team player.

It's too bad for this Albany success story. I sincerely hope that her mistake was a long time ago, and think she should get credit for apologizing, and that she's been saying use of the N-word is racist and has no place in today's society, which I agree with 100%.

African-Americans and liberals are giving her a chance. Will corporate America?

John A. Tures, associate professor of political science, LaGrange College; jtures@lagrange.edu.

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