Until about a week ago, Paula Deen was just Food Network's most lovable diabetes peddler this side of Ina Garten. She'd tell America to squeeze hamburger patties in between a split glazed donut, and we'd turn a blind eye. "Deep-fry lasagna, y'all," Deen would coo, and everyone would let it slide. When she came out last year with diabetes and became the face of a diabetic drug, that was just fine. America even let this woman tell Al Roker with a straight face that "I've always encouraged moderation."
But that all changed when a deposition surfaced in which the Georgia chef admitted to using the N-word and fantasizing about an antebellum-themed wedding, complete with slaves. Her lawyers pushed back, but then Deen went into full-on scramble mode: She canceled on the Today show, released bizarre videos left and right, then got fired by her network and her sponsors. On Friday, Kmart, Sears, J.C. Penney, and Walgreens dropped the cooking star, joining Target, Home Depot, and diabetes drug company Novo Nordisk less than 48 hours since Deen re-appeared on Today and claimed she wasn't a racist. "Would, I have fired me, knowing me? No. I am so fortunate that so many of partners, that know who I am," Deen told Lauer, speaking about partners she doesn't have today.
But book sales are up! Her new one, Paula Deen's New Testament: 250 Favorite Recipes, All Lightened Up, is now the No. 1 best-seller on Amazon (it's not even being published until October 15), making a huge leap from 1,580th place on Monday, NPR reported. And you know why? It's not intrigue. It's because the deniers are sticking by their Southern belle of the fantasy slave ball. And they get worse with every dropped sponsor. (Update, 4:42 p.m. Eastern: Deen's publisher, Ballantine Books, cancelled publication of the upcoming cookbook this afternoon.) Indeed, while Deen has reached a public breaking point, her fans and supporters very much have not. The 66-year-old Southerner has continued to receive support from high-profile people you might expect, like free-speech advocate Glenn Beck. But she also snagged a defense from Bill Maher. And on Friday, fellow Georgian and former President of the United States came to her on-air rescue:
Take it from the peanut farmer, because the dust is settling for a lot of people already. And not just her friends and family — her sons had an exclusive with CNN in which they defended their mother and talked about how they had Hank Aaron pajamas, which apparently is one more piece of evidence that their mom isn't racist — so much as in the dark corners of the Internet. Because Paula Deen's most vocal, filter-free supporters live on across Facebook and Tumblr, and they have the same gusto as One Directioners getting fat on deep-fried bigotry. Let's meet them.
We Support Paula Deen
The Data: Founded one week ago, the Facebook page now has 513,000 likes and counting.
The Demands: That you support Deen by buying her products; that Deen supporters mobilize.
The biggest Paula Deen appreciation site on Facebook doesn't really seem to know how to do a meme right (see right), but that hasn't seemed to affect its gigantic following. We Support Paula Deen is more geared toward trying to make Deen money, get her to the top of the Amazon charts (check), and call her (former) employers.
And, yes, there apparently was a special phone number created for the outpouring of Deen support:
Bring Back Paula Deen
The Data: Founded one week ago, this Facebook page now has 53,000 likes and counting.
The Demands: The Food Network should re-hire Deen; white people should be allowed to use the N-word.
There are many Facebook pages like this one, but it's the most popular of the variations on a theme. And as opposed to the many BBPD efforts, this one's big on the memes:
So, yeah, that's a little more blunt than PAULA DEEN ROCKS! You don't just pit a white N-word-using celebrity chef against famous black celebrities and complain that white people can't use the N-word. Well, unless you're Bring Back Paula Deen, in which case they do it all the time:
Some of their memes, though, seem to center on a deep knowledge of Food Network celebrities:
Bring Back Paula Deen
The Data: Founded one week ago, this Facebook page (same name, different URL, happier message) now has 187,000 likes and counting.
The Demands: The Food Network should re-hire Deen; white people should put her on their car bumpers.
This is actually the biggest of the BBPD pages by Facebook Likes. And, sure, it's not as edgy as the one above, but it sure is earnest, y'all. On this sunny version of BBPD, the Deen lovers write about "the incident" in far less detail (there's hardly any mention of the N-word) and seem to focus more on the various public half-apologies. Or, you know, Paula Deen cooking ham:
And there's also a mention of Christianity:
And this bumper sticker:
Fox News Radio
The Dude: Todd Starnes
The Demands: That the liberal media tell the whole truth about Paula Deen's use of the N-word.
The fix is in, according to the national radio host and occasional Fox News Channel guest commentator, and the "liberal anti-South media is trying to crucify Paula Deen." He wrote his feelings in a Facebook rant last week. Starnes continues:
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.
What Starnes leaves out is that people are more upset that Deen's deposition has roots in an employment discrimination lawsuit with a slew of ugly allegations, the most serious of which is that Deen enabled a hostile and racist work environment. Yes, most people say certain things that are ugly and stupid and wouldn't want to be judged for the rest of their lives for it, but there are exponentially fewer people who get smacked with an employment discrimination lawsuit and then have to talk about it.
White People Mad at the Food Network
The Tumblr: http://whitepeoplemadatfoodnetwork.tumblr.com/
The Demands: That white people never, ever stop being mad at the Food Network for firing Paula Deen.
This site isn't so much a Paula Deen fan site as it is a microscope into some of the more flagrant Paula Deen defenders. And in the week and a half since Deen's deposition leaked, the WPMATFN Tumblr has amassed more than a dozen pages of fans. Here's a sampling of what they've found, like this awful person:
Or this "none sense":
Or this interesting theory of how using the N-word, uh, doesn't make you racist:
So can't we just ignore these terrible people? Well, they don't see (or don't want to see) the difference Deen using the N-word as a slur and its use in black or hip-hop culture, so that's one thing. And, okay, some of them that don't quite fully understand that the First Amendment allows you to say anything you want — but that it also doesn't require that your boss be absolutely cool with everything you say. These are the people who don't get why this is such a big deal, and why the conversation about race that followed Deen's disaster remains important. To wake up people like this. Unfortunately, every time another one of Deen's corporate sponsors drops her, the more vocal these fans seem to become. At least that's good news for Paula Deen, who has a $17 million empire riding on these folks.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.