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Paula Deen loses Walmart, Harrah's relationships

June 26, 2013 at 4:36 PM   |   Comments

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NEW YORK, June 26 (UPI) -- Walmart said Wednesday it is ending its relationship with celebrity chef Paula Deen, who admitted using the N-word but denied she made it a habit.

Caesars Enterprises also said it was ending its relationship with Deen, amid controversy over her use of the racial slur, which surfaced as part of a lawsuit by a former employee.

"We are ending our relationship with Paula Deen Enterprises and we will not place new orders beyond those already committed," Walmart said in a statement. "We will work with suppliers to address existing inventories and agreements."

In a similar move, Jan Jones Blackhurst, executive vice president of communications and government affairs for Caesars Entertainment, said while the company appreciates "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." The company's restaurants at four of its casinos were associated with Deen.

Deen lost her gig with the Food Network last week, and Smithfield Foods dropped her Monday. QVC is still deciding whether to sever ties.

Deen said Wednesday on NBC's "Today" show she isn't a racist and only used the N-word once in her life, to refer to a black man who once held a gun to her head during a robbery 30 years ago.

Deen, 66, canceled an interview on "Today" last week, saying she was too overwhelmed and exhausted to go on the air. She rescheduled for Wednesday and told the NBC news program she wanted to clear her name and show people she is not a racist.

"There has been some very, very hurtful lies said about me," she said in an interview during which she went from defiance to tears several times.

"I believe that every creature on this Earth, every one of God's creatures was created equal," she said. "That's the way I was raised and that's the way I live my life."

Asked about the loss of her endorsement deals, Deen said she was "fortunate that so many of my partners that know who I am have decided to stand by me."

"If there's anyone out there that has never said something that they wish they could take back, ... please pick up that stone and throw it so hard at my head that it kills me," she said through tears.

Asked if she understood the N-word is offensive to black people, Deen said: "I don't know ... . I have asked myself that many times because it's very distressing for me to go into my kitchens and I hear what these young people are calling each other. It's very, very distressing."

Deen admitted in a deposition for a lawsuit she had used the racial slur at her restaurant in the past. Her comment sparked a media firestorm and she issued several apologies for her behavior and pleaded for forgiveness. Her most recent apology has been seen by millions of viewers since it was posted June 21 on YouTube.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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