Paula Deen To Appear On The ‘Today’ Show Wednesday. But Will It Matter?

June 24, 2013  |  

In the midst of last week’s firestorm over racist comments and an even worse lawsuit, Paula Deen abruptly cancelled an appearance she was supposed to make on the Today show on Friday. This morning, Matt Lauer announced that the appearance has been rescheduled for Wednesday.

At this point, Deen has been cut from the Food Network, could be cut from QVC, which sells her collection of books and cookware, and her reputation is in the toilet. When she didn’t show up on Friday, Al Roker advised her to make a beeline for the NBC studios in order to explain herself. But at this point, would it even make a difference?

Incredibly (and sadly), Deen still has supporters. They were lined up in front of her restaurant in Savannah, GA, prepared to dine and show their allegiance. In fact, according to The New York Times, the woman at the front of the line was black. Fans also took to the Food Network Facebook page to decry the network’s decision to cut ties with her.

But the accusations keep coming. Radar Online has published allegations from a former worker, an African-American man, who says he and other workers at one of her parties were compensated in beer. And even if nothing new were added to the list of outrages that have been admitted to and alleged, there are few, if any, companies that would want to hitch their wagon to someone who has been embroiled in such an ugly controversy. PR experts tell USA Today that Deen’s goose is cooked.

“Paula Deen will survive but she will never be whole again,” Howard Bragman, vice chairman of Reputation.com tells the paper. “[T]there are people that will never be in business with her again.” Mark Pasetsky, CEO of Mark Allen & Co says, “Her brand is now tainted beyond recourse.”

Another expert suggests that Deen should make her apologies live (rather than in strange videos) and then keep quiet for a bit, waiting for the right time to try and rebuild at least some parts of her brand. Will she ever have another show? Bragman says it’s possible, though we wouldn’t count on it. The tarnish of racism is one that can’t be buffed out, even with the passage of time. Perhaps reality TV would have her at some point; maybe a show where she talks about how sorry she is and how much she’s learned from the experience.

The disgust that Deen has elicited with her remarks has been explained by some as the words of a woman who was brought up at a time when the N-word was acceptable. As one of our colleagues pointed out, there were a lot of things that were once acceptable, but that’s no excuse for now. Our understanding is that Deen’s words and actions have persisted to more recent times when she should know better and do better. She has destroyed her brand, her reputation, and her credibility. We’re hard-pressed to come up with a scenario that would provide a path to a comeback.

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