Wal-Mart, Caesars Drop Paula Deen Sponsorships
While celebrity chef Paula Deen cried her way through a live interview on NBC’s Today Show Wednesday, her food empire continued to crumble like a dried-out biscuit.
Wednesday two more companies, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Caesars Entertainment Corporation, became the latest to divorce Paula Deen Enterprises after it was revealed two weeks ago in a deposition for a discrimination lawsuit that she admitted using a racial epithet, the reviled "n-word," in the past.
Earlier Wednesday she told Today’s viewers that she is not a racist, she regrets what she said, but “I is what I is . . . and I’m not going to change.”
But the separation notices kept coming. Caesars Entertainment Corporation, one of this year’s winners in Corporate Counsel’s Best Legal Departments competition, became the third major sponsor to end its business relationship with Deen.
Jan Jones Blackhurst, Caesars’ executive vice president of communications and government affairs, said in a statement [PDF]: “While we appreciate Paula's sincere apologies for statements she made in her past . . . we have mutually decided that it is in the best interests of both parties to part ways at this time."
Caesar’s legal department declined further comment on the decision to drop Deen.
According to Deen’s website, her company offered full-service restaurants at Harrah’s Cherokee casino and Harrah’s Joliet, and buffets at Harrah’s Tunica in Mississippi and at Horseshoe Southern Indiana Casino.
The website says the décor at all those Caesar’s properties is based on Deen’s home and her own kitchen in Savannah.
At Wal-Mart about 200 Paula Deen products are sold, ranging from expensive cookware to measuring spoons and candles.
In a terse, two-sentence statement Wednesday the company announced: "We are ending our relationship with Paula Deen Enterprises and we will not place new orders beyond those already committed. We will work with suppliers to address existing inventories and agreements."
These were just the latest sponsorship withdrawals. Last week the Food Network, where Deen starred in three shows, said it wouldn't renew Deen's contract when it expires at the end of the month.
Then on Monday giant pork producer Smithfield Foods Inc., which carries a line of Deen-branded hams, dropped her as a spokeswoman.
The shopping network QVC, which carries a line of Deen cooking products, has yet to move past an earlier non-committal statement, which said, “We are closely monitoring these events and we are reviewing our business relationship with Ms. Deen. In the meantime, we have no immediate plans to have her appear on QVC.”
In her TV interview, Deen thanked those business partners that haven’t dropped her, including QVC. She continues to operate restaurants in Savannah, which have drawn crowds of supporters in recent days.