My fellow writer Charles Gill opined on June 23 that Paula Deen will come back from this controversial adversity that she’s been thrown into by “telling the truth” and getting castigated for it. But can Paula Deen rise again or like the civil war influenced song, has she seen her days effectively numbered?
That remains to be seen.
But let us look at a similar situation that concerned country music singer and Southern “Good ole boy” Hank Williams Jr. who got into trouble with his network. While not “overtly” racist, it came damned close and his comparison of our current president with one of the most hated and vilified figures in history left a nasty taste in a lot of people’s mouths.
In an October 3, 2011, interview with the Fox News Channel show, Fox and Friends, Hank Williams Jr. referred to a June golf game which pitted President Barack Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner against Vice President Joe Biden and Ohio Governor John Kasich, Williams said, the match was, “one of the biggest political mistakes ever”.
When asked why Williams thought that, he said, “Come on. That’d be like Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu … in the shape this country is in?” He also said that the President and Vice President are “the enemy” and he went on to compare the two with “the Three Stooges”.
News anchor Gretchen Carlson responded to his statements by saying to Williams, “You used the name of one of the most hated people in all of the world to describe, I think, the president.” Williams said back, “Well, that is true. But I’m telling you like it is.”
This statement resulted in ESPN dropped Williams’ opening musical number from its Monday Night Football broadcast of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers versus the Indianapolis Colts and replaced it with the national anthem. A number that has been part of the Monday Night Football broadcast since 1989.
Afterward, Williams explained that his analogy was “extreme – but it was to make a point”, and “Some of us have strong opinions and are often misunderstood … I was simply trying to explain how stupid it seemed to me – how ludicrous that pairing was. They’re polar opposites, and it made no sense. They don’t see eye-to-eye and never will.”
But despite Williams going on to claim that he has “always respected the office of the president,” he added that, “Working-class people are hurting – and it doesn’t seem like anybody cares. When both sides are high-fiving it on the ninth hole when everybody else is without a job – it makes a whole lot of us angry. Something has to change. The policies have to change.” ESPN later announced they were “extremely disappointed” in Williams’ comments, and pulled his opening from that night’s broadcast.
Three days later, ESPN released a statement announcing Williams and his song would not return to Monday Night Football.
Too date, there has been no sign of the network going back on their decision to “ban” Williams from the show.
Admittedly, Hank Williams Jr was just being himself and the nail in his “ESPN coffin” was his non-recalcitrant attitude. He not only didn’t apologise, he went on to release a record saying how he really felt.
While this has not affected the country singer’s career per se, he doesn’t rely on television to spread the word on his music. He wasn’t even a “figure-head” for the Monday Night Football program on ESPN network, his song was.
Paula Deen, on the other hand, used the Food Network and her three programs to help build her reputation and her fortune. Using the “winning” combination of being an unapologetic Southern Belle who was not adverse to speaking her mind and her “homespun” Southern charm that dripped like so much ersatz honey blossoms, she built an financial empire with the aid of the network.
In this thoroughly PC world that we live in, racism (or the very hint of it) is a career killer. Sure, the 66 year-old celebrity cook from Georgia has a lot of stalwart and faithful fans who have come to her aid (Have you seen the Food Network’s Facebook page?) and who will forgive Paula all her previous transgressions.
But it is doubtful that the network will back off of on their decision. Television is not about viewer choice or even quality programs. It is all about the money dear children. Money equals sponsors and the loss of these vital money givers is the “bottom-line” with the networks.
Racism and its continual emergence in our modern world is not condoned publicly by anyone, never mind that at least half of them still practise it in some form or another in private. The threat of political incorrectness will ruin a career with all the precision of a fatal death blow to the head in an abattoir. Unfortunately for the Paula Deen, celebrity cook and restaurateur, just like the South she probably will not, “Rise again.”
By Michael Smith