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Paula Deen “Beg[s] for Your Forgiveness,” For Something

A vague apology video raises the question: what exactly does Deen think she did wrong?

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Days after her admission to making racist statements was revealed, Paula Deen finally responded personally, via a video statement that expressed regret and begged forgiveness.

Sort of. For something. Deen’s statement is less than a minute long, yet oddly, jumpily edited into four segments, like a hostage video or a badly jump-cut reality-TV confessional; in all that, however, she makes no specific reference to what she’s sorry for or why. The closest she gets to that is: “Inappropriate or hurtful language is totally, totally unacceptable,” which, I’ll give her that; that would be why they call it “inappropriate.” But however genuinely sorry Deen is, and I do not claim to read her heart, it was a video you could have your publicist keep under glass in case of anything.

I’ve already written at length what I thought about Deen’s original comments, and I argued then that Deen insulted her fans as much as anyone; she championed (and got rich from) an idea of down-home culture and southern comfort, then proceeded to embody some of its worst and most shameful associations. As I’ve written before, I’m not crazy about firing people every time they say something stupid. [Update: So much for that, however; Food Network is reportedly dropping Deen’s show.] But Deen’s statements also shouldn’t just be shrugged off–including and especially by Deen herself.

Before the video came out today, I was asked on CNN what Deen would need to do to apologize effectively. I’m not an ethicist or a p.r. consultant; I just think a good apology involves being actually sorry. That’s different from “Sorry you were offended” or “Sorry I got in trouble.” How did you screw up? Why was it wrong? What do you believe now that you didn’t before? What are you going to do about it? (For an example of a specific apology, for instance, see Kickstarter’s earlier today for allowing a project to raise funds for a “seduction guide” that advocated unwanted groping.)

Deen’s video, on the other hand, is fill-in-the-blanks generic. I have to wonder if that’s intentionally so, and if the reason for that is that there’s an existing discrimination lawsuit (which yielded the deposition that caused the original controversy). We may be seeing the invisible fence of the lawyers’ parameters here. But whatever the reason, she didn’t give us much to go on.

That’s part of what I’m thinking, but honestly, I’m a little uncomfortable with the whole public meta-theatre-criticism of “Did this apology work?” Apologies aren’t meant to “work”; they’re meant to apologize, and looking at them in terms of personal gain and strategy is the wrong way to look at them in the first place. Deen’s video may have kept her from hurting herself in court, but the court of public opinion is different. And apologies, unlike desserts, are not something best produced by following a recipe.

Update: Oh also? The original apology video I embedded has been pulled down, as of this writing, from Deen’s YouTube channel; I’ve replaced it for now with a video capture from another user. I’m thinking apologizing, then immediately disabling your apology video, also does not earn you bonus contrition points.

Second Update: And now we have a second apology video, for whatever reason, from Deen’s YouTube channel. This one is in one cut, and about twice as long, and at least gets at the subject of race and bigotry: “Your color of skin, your religion, your sexual preference does not matter,” while still notably skirting any admissions as to what she’s apologizing for. It also addresses her canceling on this morning’s Today Show, so there’s that. The video appears below, and you can decide if you feel she’s more contrite. If not, maybe there’ll be another in an hour:

Third Update: There is now a third apology video online. This one specifically to Matt Lauer. Herewith, the final (for now) installment of the Paula Deen Apology Trilogy:

13 comments
DanitaMunn
DanitaMunn

Does everyone know that the person who is bringing these charges against Ms. Deen is a white women?  And do you know all the allegations of the complaint against Ms. Deen?  Well to say that you forgive her is one thing and we all should forgive her but to support her in this hate acts of separation and segregation is wrong and if you think its right you have the same problem she does....you are a RACIST.

Hermione
Hermione like.author.displayName 1 Like

People can do spew all they want in the privacy of their own homes, even though I fail to see the point of it.

My issue is this - unprofessional, unbecoming behavior, esp. from those that are suppose to be leaders in the culinary world.  The best way for me to express my 'freedom of speech' is to let my money talk.  After all, money talks and everything else walks, so I can very easily spend money on some other celebrity cook.

DianaRodriguez-Martins
DianaRodriguez-Martins like.author.displayName 1 Like

All this BS about "offensive" language is ridiculous.  This just shows that Puritanism is alive and well in America. The Puritans were soooo afraid someone might smile or have a good time, that they banned everything.

Now, for something Paula Deen might have said long ago, the modern liberal Puritans want to force her to wear a scarlet letter and ban her from "polite" society. This is just wrong.

If you don't like Paula's exercise of her freedom of speech, then don't watch her show. But don't try to ban it for the rest of us.

All you are doing is creating a backlash so that our eyes glaze over every time we hear accusations of racism. If everything little word anybody says is racism, then racism is not real.

Hermione
Hermione like.author.displayName 1 Like

DianaRodriguez-Martins

This allegations also concern sexual harassment.  Do you think sexual harassment and abuse should be condoned in the workplace?

This is more to do about good conduct, and being a professional.  People can go spew all they want in the privacy of their own homes.

SylvTaylor
SylvTaylor like.author.displayName 1 Like

@DianaRodriguez-Martins 

Freedom of speech means that she can say certain words without fear of being jailed.

It also means that others are free to say that those words both them, and for companies to not renew contracts because what was said was rude or bigoted. No one is sending her to jail; no one is restricting her right to free speech. 

Being free to be able to say things like that without fear of incarceration doesn't mean that one needs to say rude and bigoted things about folks. It's bad manners, it's not courteous, and it's not considerate of one's fellow human beings. Being an adult means that one should mind one's childhood lessons about behaving with class.

My grandparents, who were born around 1902 (if we want to bring up old-fashioned attitudes about race and language), were adamant about thinking about how what I might say might make others feel, and how those words would reflect on me and the people who raised me. That was just how people of their generation were, and it bothered them that folks felt that it was a lot more permissible to just mouth off any hateful thing they wanted. Every time people say, 'but they should be free to say what they do!' then I wonder why they were not taught about kindness, respect, and class.

kelechi_ukaogo
kelechi_ukaogo

This is what happens when a dull mind grasps on a fragment of history/theory.

Calling people derogatory names has no justification in freedom of speech/freedom from censure. I guess it's easy to wax intellectual when the barbs are aimed at someone else.

kelechi_ukaogo
kelechi_ukaogo like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

This is what happens when a dull mind grasps on a fragment of history/theory.Calling people derogatory names has no justification in freedom of speech/freedom from censure. I guess it's easy to wax intellectual when the barbs are aimed at someone else.

Think_again
Think_again like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@DianaRodriguez-Martins 

Puritan? Did Puritans wear sheets? Dress up slaves for plantation picnics? 

The 'N' word is definitely closely related to racism -- almost definitive of it.

Think_again
Think_again like.author.displayName 1 Like

@DianaRodriguez-Martins 

Racist attitudes and behavior last a long time -- even a lifetime (cf. American History). The fact that Paula doesn't seem to 'get' exactly what is wrong with how she has expressed herself (apart from the fact that it has hurt her career) is certainly a problem.

#Go_You_Huskies!
#Go_You_Huskies!

Its quite understandable (if) someone like Paula Dean (would like to believe) she has the power to be "racist" (against..?) ... This is the predicament of most of the people who inhabit the Americas (from North to South). 

But, to be a "white racist" in an Alexandrian sense, or Hitlerian (if you like) sense, one has to have some leverage. Some power to execute his racist agenda. Alexander and Hitler certainly did! 

Per this theory, Paula Dean can not actually be (a) racist. She just doesn't have that sort of power in the post-apartheid USA ...

rpearlston
rpearlston

@#Go_You_Huskies! Everyone has that power.  It doesn't matter if you can easily get media attention or not.  it doesn't matter what you do for a living, whether you are a person with power of any type or not.  It simply doesn't matter.  

Every individual has the power to pass along their attitudes, good, bad or indifferent.  That's what gives everyone that power, no matter how their bigotry presents itself.  Sympathizing with such behavior is also offensive.

You are wrong, as wrong as was Ms Deen when she said what she did.

KennethGallaher
KennethGallaher

No problem there is always room for another racist at Faux