News and Tribune

June 27, 2013

Stick a fork in her, she’s done

Deen buffet removed from Horseshoe Casino, other Caesars properties

By BRADEN LAMMERS
braden.lammers@newsandtribune.com

ELIZABETH —

The Southern cook known for her love of butter has slid out the door at Horseshoe Southern Indiana.

Celebrity chef Paula Deen and her namesake buffet at the Horseshoe Casino Southern Indiana were dropped by Caesars Entertainment Corp. (NASDAQ: CZR), parent company of the casino, in the wake of racist remarks admitted to by Deen in a deposition that was recently released.

The Paula Deen Buffet, which had seating for 525 guests, was one of six eateries in the casino. While the buffet is still open, according to a casino employee, the Deen named will be removed. Deen’s buffets have also been dropped from three other casinos owned by Caesars.

“While we appreciate Paula’s sincere apologies for statements she made in her past that she recently disclosed during a deposition given in response to a lawsuit, after thoughtful consideration of their impact, we have mutually decided that it is in the best interests of both parties to part ways at this time,” said Jan Jones Blackhurst, executive vice president of communications and government affairs for Caesars Entertainment, in a press release.

According to the press release, the company plans to rebrand the buffet and will announce its plans “in the near future.”

Horseshoe Southern Indiana has already removed all traces of the Deen buffet from its website.

Caesars is the latest of several companies that has severed its ties with Deen in the wake of her remarks becoming public. Food Network, where Deen rose to national fame, ended its contract with the celebrity chef and Smithfield Foods also ended its contract with Deen.

According to the deposition released May 17, Deen admitted to using racial epithets. 

Paula Deen dissolved into tears during a “Today” show interview Wednesday about her admission that she used a racial slur in the past, saying anyone in the audience who’s never said anything they’ve regretted should pick up a rock and throw it at her head.

The celebrity chef, who had backed out of a “Today” interview last Friday, said she wasn’t a racist and was heartbroken by the controversy that began with her own deposition in a lawsuit. Deen has been dropped by the Food Network and as a celebrity endorser by Smithfield Foods, according to an Associated Press report.

“I’ve had to hold friends in my arms while they’ve sobbed because they know what’s been said about me is not true and I’m having to comfort them,” she told the AP.

Deen told Matt Lauer she could only recall using the “n-word” once. She had earlier said that she remembered using it when retelling a story about when she was held at gunpoint by a robber who was black while working as a bank teller in the 1980s in Georgia. In a deposition for the lawsuit involving an employee in a restaurant owned by Deen and her brother, she had said she may also have used the slur when recalling conversations between black employees at her restaurants.

Looking distressed and her voice breaking, Deen said if there was someone in the audience who had never said something they wished they could take back, “please pick up that stone and throw it as hard at my head so it kills me. I want to meet you. I want to meet you.”

“I is what I is and I’m not changing,” she said. “There’s someone evil out there that saw what I worked for and wanted it.”

An uncomfortable Lauer tried to end the interview, but Deen repeated that anyone who hasn’t sinned should attack her.

Deen said she appreciated fans who have expressed anger at the Food Network for dropping her, but said she didn’t support a boycott of the network.

“These people who have met me and know me and love me, they’re as angry as the people who are reading these stories that are lies,” she said.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.