Paula Deen should not have gone on the Today show and tried to clean up the mess that has become her brand… errr, I mean life. Here’s the thing, after her interview with Matt Lauer, I am of the opinion she is most likely a racist. I say most likely because I can’t truly know her heart, but her message and body language in that interview suggested strongly that her reason for being there wasn’t to apologize, but to salvage her reputation and heat up her base, those staunch Paula Deen supporters that would love her even if they found out her secret ingredient in her barbeque sauce is puppy tears. She turned into a Southern preacher in the Today show studios by making overt biblical references and reaching out and gently touchng Lauer during her most ardent pleas for forgiveness. She has sinned. She is wounded. She loves all creatures… blah, blah, blah. We don’t call that acting in the south. We call it laying it on thick. She’s a Southern belle. That’s what they’re taught to do.
The real problem, however, started when she tried to justify her behavior. People don’t want to hear it happened a long time ago. People don’t want to hear that it’s not a Paula Deen issue, but a much larger societal issue. People don’t want to hear that you were raised to be a good person. It all feels like your climbing up a rope that’s not tied to anything. She didn’t want us to see that she recognized that she was wrong. She wanted us to see that she’s being crucified for behaving like everyone else. It is the classic “I’m sorry I’m human” non-apology apology. The only thing worse is the “I’m sorry I was misunderstood” non-apology apology.
So if you’re a brand like Paula Deen, how should you apologize for your offensive behavior? Let me ask you something. Do you remember when Woody Allen apologized for having an affair with the young girl he helped raise with Mia Farrow? No? That’s because he didn’t. He barely even talked about it. He went on 60 Minutes and basically said, “I did it. Now what?” Sure he acknowledged it wasn’t the ideal situation, but he owned up to it without any caveats. The closest he came to justifying his behavior was saying, “The heart wants what the heart wants.”
I’m not defending Mr. Allen. Hell, he didn’t defend himself so I’m certainly not going to do it for him. The point is the scandal came and went without even putting a dent in his career. He’s not the cash machine that Paula Deen is, but his career was just as “in the balance” as hers is now. Woody Allen recognized what Paula Deen fails to recognize. He doesn’t owe the public an apology or an explanation. He probably should call Mia and the rest of his family someday and offer up a heartfelt, “Please forgive me,” but as far as the rest of us, it’s none of our business.
Does racism exist? Yep. Is that Paula Deens fault? Nope. Should she apologize for making racist remarks? Not to me or anyone else not personally effected by her behavior. From this point forward, Paula Deen should go to the Woody Allen playbook, and just do what she does, cook.