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Paula Deen lands in the deep fryer

Paula DeenFood Network (tv network)Charlie SheenPulitzer Prize AwardsThe Home DepotSmithfield Foods

Paula Deen, the Southern celebrity chef, has been dumped from the Food Network like a stale beignet. Her Georgia roots are what made her a unique talent in the foodie world, and the darker ends of those roots are what got her in trouble.

When her use of the "N" word and her less-than-PC racial humor came to light in a court deposition, Ms. Deen suddenly found herself swept up in the kind of bad publicity that offers no upside. (There's Charlie Sheen bad -- so bad that it becomes entertainment -- and there's Mel Gibson bad -- just plain toxic.) Ms. Deen's tearful apologies and pleas for understanding on both the "Today Show" and CNN have not stopped business partners such as Wal-Mart, Smithfield Foods, Home Depot and Caesars Entertainment from cutting ties with her.

Some came to the chef's defense -- among them the fevered conspiracy monger Glenn Beck, who said Ms. Deen's right to free speech was being infringed -- but she apparently had few, if any, champions at the place that had made her a star, the Food Network. The gourmand and glutton channel was so quick to cancel her show that there may well have been more to it than concern about a few instances of offensive language. Ms. Deen's ratings are reported to have been on a steep skid from a high in 2011.

In the hot kitchen and sharp knives of the entertainment business, if your slice of audience is not much more than a nibble, you will soon find yourself off the menu, no matter the circumstances.

Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Horsey is a political commentator for the Los Angeles Times. Go to latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/ to see more of his work.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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