NEW YORK, June 28 (UPI) -- Four more U.S. companies said Friday they are dropping their affiliation with celebrity chef Paula Deen over her past use of racist language.
Deen, 66, admitted in a May deposition for a lawsuit she had used the N-word in the past. That comment, and her description of a so-called plantation-style wedding she would like to see, sparked a media firestorm.
In a "Today" show interview this week, Deen insisted she is not a racist and only used the N-word once -- in describing the man who stuck a gun in her face while robbing the bank where she worked in 1987.
J.C. Penney, Walgreens, Sears and Kmart said Friday they are moving away from their business relationship with Deen and the cable shopping channel QVC said it would "take a pause" in its dealings with her, the New York Post reported.
"We can confirm that jcpenney has decided to discontinue selling Paula Deen branded merchandise," J.C. Penney said in a statement to The Huffington Post.
Sears Holding Corp., owner of Sears and Kmart stores, told TMZ it had decided "after careful consideration of all available information ... to phase out all products tied to [Paula Deen's] brand."
Walgreens spokeswoman Mai Lee Ua told The Huffington Post the chain is "phasing out" its Deen products.
QVC President and Chief Executive Officer Mike George said the shopping channel had discussed the matter with Deen "and together we have considered what is best for our customers, for Paula and for QVC. For now, we have decided to take a pause."
George said Deen will not appear on QVC broadcasts "and we will phase out her product assortment on our online sales channels over the next few months."
"We all think it's important, at this moment, for Paula to concentrate on responding to the allegations against her and on her path forward," he said.
However, he left the door open for resuming the association with Deen.
"As you know, I have some important things to work on right now, both personally and professionally," Deen said. "And so we've agreed that it's best for me to step back from QVC and focus on setting things right."
The Food Network, Smithfield Foods, Walmart, Home Depot and casino giant Caesar's Entertainment have said they would end their partnerships with Deen, who maintains partnerships with Alice Travel, Ladies Candies, Hoffman Media, Random House, Metropolitan Cooking Expo, Springer Mountain Farms and Epicurean Butter.