QVC latest to drop embattled Paula Deen

People Paula Deen
In this publicity image released by NBC, celebrity chef Paula Deen appears on NBC News' "Today" show, wednesday, June 26, 2013 in New York. Deen dissolved into tears during a "Today" show interview Wednesday about her admission that she used a racial slur in the past. The celebrity chef, who had backed out of a "Today" interview last Friday, said she was not 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. (AP Photo/NBC, Peter Kramer)

The queen of Southern cuisine lost another significant portion of her kingdom Thursday evening.

West Chester-based home shopping network QVC announced its decision to "take a pause" from beleaguered culinary star Paula Deen. After a deposition conducted in May and filed last week revealed the chef's admission of using the "N-word," seven companies have now severed ties with Deen.

Two separate letters were posted to the QVC blog: One from QVC President and CEO Mike George, the other from Paula Deen herself.

George shared in his letter that the company would begin phasing out Paula Deen products over the next few months. He added that QVC is taking a "pause" from its relationship with Deen, although he did not disclose whether the network plans to completely part ways with the cook like other brands. On whether or not QVC's decision to end its association with Deen was "forever," George wrote, "We don’t think that’s how relationships work. People deserve second chances. And we always strive to do the right thing."

The decision, one that was discussed and mutually agreed to by Deen, will allow the embattled chef to use this burdensome period to "focus on setting things right," she shared in her letter to QVC customers.

Read George's full letter, below:

To our customers,

Over the past week, in our online communities, our social forums, and our call centers, and through letters and emails to me, many of you have passionately shared your thoughts about QVC’s relationship with Paula Deen. This issue is so important to you and to our community that I wanted to talk with you directly about it, rather than couch our response in some anonymous corporate statement.

Many of you have expressed disappointment and even anger at the comments Paula has acknowledged making. Others feel equally strongly that Paula is not being treated fairly in the public debate and deserves forgiveness. Your spirited conversation reflects the complexity of the issues raised and the deep feelings surrounding them.

Regardless of where you stand, many of you are questioning what QVC is planning to do and whether we will handle our relationship with Paula in a respectful and appropriate manner – for Paula, for our customers, and for the broader community.

We owe you an answer. We too are troubled by what Paula has acknowledged saying. We’re also troubled by the allegations against her. We deeply believe, as you do, that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

At the same time, we have enjoyed a positive, long-standing relationship with Paula. She has always been gracious and supportive to every QVC team member she encountered. And we value, as we hope you know, all of our relationships. We believe it’s important to handle difficult situations such as this in a thoughtful and fair manner that recognizes our common humanity.

And in any strong relationship, when troubles arise, the first step is to talk. We have talked with Paula and her team extensively over the last several days, and together we have considered what is best for our customers, for Paula, and for QVC. For now, we have decided to take a pause. 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. 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.

I am grateful for the openness and honesty you have brought to the conversation, and I recognize that many of you will be disappointed by our decision. Whatever your views, we will continue to do what we have always strived to do – create a great shopping experience, and earn your trust, and your business, every day.

Deen meanwhile, shared the following statement:

To my customers at QVC,

 I want to let you know how much I value my relationship with all of you and with QVC. I’ve loved hearing from all of you over the years, with your calls and posts and letters. I’ve so enjoyed my close relationship with David Venable and his team, and my warm interactions with the extended QVC family. I also appreciate the caring way that QVC has interacted with me over the past week.

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.

Both Target Corp. and diabetes drug maker Novo Nordisk announced Thursday morning that they are parting ways with the celebrity chef. Target announced that it will "phase out" all Deen-branded items from stores and online, while Novo Nordisk announced that the company and Deen have "mutually agreed to suspend our patient education activities for now."

On Friday, the Food Network announced it would not be renewing Deen's contract after it ends in June. Wal-Mart announced Wednesday it was ending its relationship with Deen. During her extensive sit-down interview with Matt Lauer on Wednesday's "Today" show, Deen shared, "I'm heartbroken. I've had to hold friends in my arms while they've sobbed because they know what has been said about me. It's not true." The chef, who dissolved into tears on the morning show, repeated she's not a racist.