Larry Elder

If celebrity cook Paula Deen is out because of her decades-old private use of the "n" word, what about its public AND private use by MSNBC's Al Sharpton? What about HBO host Bill Maher's use of the "c" word?

The crisis Deen must deal with confirms the observation of a former editor of the conservative magazine National Review. "White racism exists," said John O'Sullivan. "But its social power is weak; the social power against it, overwhelming."

Deen has -- so far -- lost her show on the Food Network and her spokesperson gig for Smithfield Foods. QVC, Sears, Wal-Mart and others are deciding whether to continue their relationship with the embattled chef.

What did the 66-year-old native of Georgia do that now threatens their enterprises?

In a deposition given in a harassment lawsuit filed by a white ex-employee at a Deen family-owned restaurant, Deen admitted using the "n-word" in the past, during a private conversation: "When a black man burst into the bank that I was working at and put a gun to my head," she said, "I didn't feel real favorable to him." Deen says she didn't use the word during the holdup, but "probably" used it later, "in telling my husband."

Asked if she ever used the word again, Deen responded, "I'm sure I have, but it's been a very long time." When pressed to recall specific instances, Deen could not, saying: "I don't know, maybe in repeating something that was said to me. ... But that's just not a word that we use as time has gone on. Things have changed since the '60s in the South. And my children and my brother object to that word being used in any cruel or mean behavior, as well as I do."

Deen has, so far, apologized, apologized and apologized.

That the ex-employee is white, not black, and worked for her for five years did not seem to matter. Nor does it seem to matter that others have not come forward to corroborate her alleged racism. Does she refuse to hire blacks? Has she mistreated them or paid them below the wages of white workers? And, for what it's worth, Deen supported and campaigned for President Barack Obama.

If Deen's crime is the private use of the n-word, why does the Rev. Al Sharpton, who hosts a nightly hour-long show on MSNBC, get a pass?


Larry Elder

Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an "Elderado," visit www.LarryElder.com.