Paula Deen said in a deposition last month that she has occasionally used the N-word — but not in a "mean" way.
The Food Network star and her brother, Bubba Hiers, are being sued by Lisa T. Jackson, a former employee of their Savannah, Ga., restaurant, Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House. Jackson says she suffered from Hiers' violent, sexist and racist behavior and that Deen did nothing to stop it.
The Food Network said in a statement that it would "continue to monitor the situation" and that it "does not tolerate any form of discrimination and is a strong proponent of diversity and inclusion."
In a deposition May 17, Deen was questioned about her and her relatives' use of racial terms and humor, and her desire to have a wedding staffed by African-American men.
Jackson, who says she is a white woman with bi-racial nieces, claims in her lawsuit that Deen once expressed a desire for Hiers' wedding to be staffed by a "bunch of little n—ers" wearing "long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties," adding, "you know in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around.” The suit said Deen abandoned the idea because "the media would be on me about that.”
In the deposition, Deen defended Hiers and said that while she did say she wanted a “Southern-style plantation wedding” with "professional" African-American waiters, she did not use the N-word.
Asked by Jackson's attorney, Matthew Billips, if she had ever used the word, Deen replied, "Yes, of course."
Pressed for details on when, she replied: "Well, it was probably when a black man burst into the bank that I was working at and put a gun to my head…I didn't feel real favorable towards him."
She said she likely used the word afterwards, when telling her husband about the robbery.
She also said she has "probably" used the word to recount "a conversation between blacks," who themselves used the word.
"But that's just not a word that we use as time has gone on. Things have changed since the '60s in the south," she said. "And my children and my brother object to that word being used in any cruel or mean behavior. … As well as I do."
Deen said that while others in her family, including her brother, have told racial jokes, she has not. But she says she has occasionally told sexual jokes.
"We have all told off-colored jokes," she explained.
Deen also said she generally uses the word "black" rather than African-American because "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."
William Franklin, Deen’s attorney, said in a statement to the Associated Press that "contrary to media reports, Ms. Deen does not condone or find the use of racial epithets acceptable.”
Pamela Chelin contributed to this story.