Even Paula Deen's Celebrity Friends Are Reluctant to Defend Her

Though Anne Rice called the chef's firing a "crucifixion," she also called Deen "ignorant." See what other celebs have to say

It's been several days since the start of Paula Deen-Gate, and so far, only her sons have defended her outright. Not even her friend Oprah Winfrey has dared to enter this minefield of ugly commentary about the Food Network star, whose recent court hearing unearthed past racist comments (which, in turn, led to her firing from the network). 

Naturally, several African-American celebrities have voiced their disdain. "One day you will use that word in front of the wrong black person, and they will slap your face, and deal with the charges later," Wendy Williams told Entertainment Tonight. "It's not funny." Watch below.

Deen's wistful comments about the pre-Civil-War South were "what pushed me over the edge," Whoopi Goldberg said on The View. "I think you can't really in 2013 have nostalgia for slavery." (She also extended an invitation to Deen to visit the show and explain her side of the story.) Watch here:

Those who have defended Deen publicly have done it with, well, let's call it backhanded charm. She should have known better, in Bill Maher's opinion, but he called her firing an over-reach. "I... think people shouldn't have to lose their shows and go away when they do something bad," he said during Friday's Real Time With Bill Maher. "It's just a word. It's a wrong word. She shouldn't use it, but do we always have to make people go away?" Watch here:

 

And while Anne Rice made headlines for defending Deen, she was hardly a cheerleader. "She's an old southern lady," Rice wrote on her Facebook page. "And she never made these unwise remarks of hers to a black person. We have no evidence at all that she has ever personally insulted or injured any black employee or friend." Then Rice busted out the stupid-is-as-stupid-does defense: "It's so easy to persecute an older, overweight, unwise, crude, ignorant woman who may very well be a good person at heart who has achieved a great deal in her life," she wrote. "So easy to vilify her and hate her and try to destroy her life. Woe to anyone today who is not slender, young, clever and politically correct." 

The R&B singer Ciara also took a dig at Deen's age. (Deen is 66.) “That word is so old that it references the context of where it comes from," she told Access Hollywood. "I want to make sure I’m clear about that, it doesn’t mean that same thing [when people use it today] that it could have meant years ago, especially when we can have fun about it.”   

Meanwhile, Deen's friend and fellow Food Network star, Giada De Laurentiis, admitted that in the wake of Deen's firing, she was feeling pressure to speak out on her behalf. “That’s what everyone on social media wants me to do, to make comments, [to] stand up for her," she told Access Hollywood. "The problem is, you need to do your homework first, you need to have all the facts before you say anything -- especially in a situation like this." So she's chosen to remain noncommittal, despite the fact that "Paula has been nothing but wonderful to me over the years," she said.   

Ironically, Deen has received something of a pass from an unexpected corner: civil rights activist Rev Al Sharpton. Speaking to TMZ, he counseled patience, and a wait-and-see attitude. "A lot of us have in the past said things we have regretted saying years ago," he said. Watch here:

 

Perhaps only Deen herself has the power to recover her quickly receding tide of popularity. Smithfield followed Food Network's lead in firing the chef, and TMZ reports that Caesars will be closing her four restaurants that operate in their casinos. After cancelling her Today interview, she sat down with Matt Lauer last week to address the “hurtful lies” against her. Following the interview, Wal-Mart -- which carries food items, cookware and health and wellness products under Deen's name -- announced it had ended its relationship with the chef. Home Depot and Target, which both carried Paula Deen cookware, and the diabetes drug maker Novo Nordisk, for which she was a spokeswoman, also dropped the chef. Even her book publisher is parting ways with Deen -- this, after her cookbook soared to No. 1 in sales on Amazon.

Can she recover? Even the most lopsided coconut cake can be salvaged, y'all. And Paula Deen can sure do that! 

Jennifer Graham Kizer is an Atlanta-based writer who covers pop culture and watches too much TV. Luckily, iVillage gives her an excuse to watch even more. Follow her on Google+.

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