Paula Deen Scandal: 5 New Developments

4:27 PM PST 06/27/2013 by THR Staff
Food Network
Paula Deen

Another brand distances itself from the celebrity chef, who has hired a crisis firm headed up by the PR expert who inspired ABC's "Scandal."

The Paula Deen scandal shows no signs of slowing down, despite her tearful apology Wednesday on NBC's Today.

The Southern TV cook has faced widespread outrage and dwindling endorsement deals since a deposition was released last week in which she admitted to using the "n-word" in the past and discussed her wish to mount a "true Southern plantation-style" wedding.

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Here are five of the latest developments in the scandal:

1. QVC becomes the latest brand to distance itself from the celebrity chef.

In a statement posted on a QVC blog, president and CEO Mike George said the company has "decided to take a pause" in its relationship with Deen. "Paula won’t be appearing on any upcoming broadcasts and we will phase out her product assortment on our online sales channels over the next few months," George wrote. "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. Some of you may wonder whether this is a 'forever' decision – whether we are simply ending our association with Paula. We don’t think that’s how relationships work. People deserve second chances. And we always strive to do the right thing." Added Deen in a statement also posted on the QVC blog: "As you know, I have some important things to work on right now, both personally and professionally. And so we’ve agreed that it’s best for me to step back from QVC and focus on setting things right. I am truly sorry and assure you I will work hard to earn your forgiveness." Among the companies who already announced plans to sever ties with Deen are food Network, Target,  severing ties with Deen, diabetes-drug maker Novo Nordisk, Home Depot, Walmart, ham company Smithfield and Caesars Entertainment Corporations.

2. Deen hires a crisis firm to handle her PR.

The embattled chef hired Washington D.C.-based Smith & Co., according to AdAge. The firm is headed up by CEO Judy Smith, who was the inspiration for Kerry Washington's character on ABC's Scandal. As AdAge notes, the move came on the heels of her canceled Today appearance Friday and two YouTube videos that drew criticism. The report also noted that her rescheduled Today appearance -- she faced Matt Lauer on Wednesday -- was likely her new PR team's first move.

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3. Her Today appearance draws big ratings.

People are clearly interested in what Deen has to say about the scandal. The NBC series' highly publicized interview saw viewership swell to its first daily win over Good Morning America since November. Wednesday's episode of Today averaged 4.789 million viewers, according to preliminary Nielsen returns. That's 168,000 more viewers than GMA earned during the same day.

4. Tickets to the "Paula Deen Cruise" are a hot ticket for fans.

Phyllis Loverdi, vice president of Fairfield, N.J.-based Alice Travel, told The Hollywood Reporter that since Deen's troubles began, fans have been calling the company and signing up for excursions in January 2014 and another one for the summer of that year, possibly in July, that were in the works pre-scandal. "Some want to go on both," said Loverdi, adding: "Somebody said she would never go on a cruise and would go on this one with Paula." The Paula Deen Cruise is held on Royal Caribbean ships, and Deen remains aboard during each excursion, spending much time with guests, says Loverdi. The last cruise set sail in January with about 500 fans along for the ride. Loverdi said she expects about 1,000 in total for next year. Deen launched her cruise line in 2009.

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5. Preorder sales of her book skyrocket on Amazon.

Paula Deen's New Testament, has surged past best-sellers by the likes of Dan Brown, Stephen King and Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin to take the top spot on Amazon's sales charts. The book charted in the 1,500s on Monday and by Wednesday it was at No. 18. Scheduled to hit shelves Oct. 15, the book is Deen's first with Random House. Another Deen cookbook, 2011's Paula Deen's Southern Cooking Bible, currently resides at No. 7 on the best-sellers list.

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