Smithfield Foods said today it is dropping celebrity chef Paula Deen as a spokeswoman for the Virginia-based company that recently announced it will be acquired by Chinese meat company Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd.
The Associated Press reports the announcement to sever ties with Deen comes just days after the Food Network said it would not renew the popular cook’s contract in the wake of revelations that she used racial slurs in the past.
Smithfield sold Paula Deen-branded hams in addition to using her as a spokeswoman. In a statement, the company said it “condemns the use of offensive and discriminatory language and behavior of any kind. Therefore, we are terminating our partnership with Paula Deen.”
QVC also said it was reviewing its deal with Paula Deen Enterprises to sell the star’s cookbooks and cookware, according to the AP.
“QVC shares the concerns being raised around the unfortunate Paula Deen situation,” QVC said in a statement. “We are closely monitoring these events and the ongoing litigation. We are reviewing our business relationship with Ms. Deen, and in the meantime, we have no immediate plans to have her appear on QVC.”
Sears said the company “is currently exploring next steps as they pertain to Ms. Deen’s products.” Walmart, which sells Deen’s cookware, was expected to have a statement later today, the AP reports.
The rapid downfall came after revelations that the 66-year-old Food Network star admitted using racial slurs in the past in a deposition in a discrimination lawsuit. Deen was asked under oath if she had ever used the N-word. “Yes, of course,” Deen said, though she added, “It’s been a very long time.”
The AP says Deen insisted she and her family do not tolerate prejudice, and in a videotaped apology, she asked fans and critics for forgiveness. It had been posted online for about an hour when the Food Network released a terse statement that it “will not renew Paula Deen’s contract when it expires at the end of this month.” The network refused to comment further.
The AP reports that Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment Corp., which has Deen’s restaurants in some of its casinos, said Friday that it “will continue to monitor the situation.” Publisher Ballantine, which has a new Deen book scheduled to roll out this fall, used similar words.
Earlier Monday, NBC’s Matt Lauer said Deen would appear Wednesday on “Today.” Last week she abruptly cancelled on the morning show before posting her videotaped apologies.
Deen has many supporters, however. Postings to her Facebook page have been overwhelmingly positive, from both black and white fans.
“Miss Paula… as a Black woman, NOTHING from you has offended me!” one Facebook fan wrote. “I love you!! I pray for a forgiving spirit on those that have persecuted you. I hope to meet you face to face one day… you are my “light-skinned” auntie (in my head!). Be blessed… hold your head up high and proud! You are a remarkable woman!”
Fans also have taken to other social media outlets, as well as Deen’s restaurants, to show their support.