(CNN) — Celebrity chef Paula Deen’s sons staunchly defended their mother Tuesday, saying allegations of racism are false “character assassination.”
“Neither one of our parents ever taught us to be bigoted toward any other person for any reason,” Bobby Deen told CNN’s “New Day” in an exclusive interview with Chris Cuomo.
“Our mother is one of the most compassionate, good-hearted, empathetic people that you’d ever meet,” he added. “These accusations are very hurtful to her, and it’s very sad.”
Bobby Deen added that he’s “disgusted by the entire thing, because it began as extortion and it has become character assassination.”
Jamie Deen said his parents taught him the story of his hero, baseball legend Hank Aaron, when he was a young boy. They explained that “the challenges (Aaron) had to overcome because of his color was unacceptable,” Jamie Deen said.
Paula Deen’s fortune has taken a hit in recent days as the Food Network dropped her, as did Smithfield Foods, one of her key sponsors.
That followed a deposition in which Deen admitted to at times having used the “N word.”
In the deposition, part of a lawsuit proceeding, Deen said she probably used the racial slur when talking to her husband about “when a black man burst into the bank that I was working at and put a gun to my head.”
Asked whether she had used the word since, she responded, “I’m sure I have, but it’s been a very long time.”
Deen and her brother are being sued for alleged sexual and racial harassment by a former manager of Deen’s restaurants in Savannah, Georgia.
Lisa T. Jackson’s lawsuit alleges that Deen and Bubba Hier committed numerous acts of violence, discrimination and racism that resulted in the end of her five-year tenure at Deen’s Lady & Sons and Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House eateries in Savannah.
Deen’s lawyer has called the allegations false.
“Contrary to media reports, Ms. Deen does not condone or find the use of racial epithets acceptable,” Bill Franklin said. “She is looking forward to her day in court.”
In a video online last week, Paula Deen, 66, apologized to “to those that I have hurt.”
“My family and I are not the kind of people the press are wanting to say we are,” she said. “… Your color, your religion, your sexual preference does not matter to me. But it’s what’s in the heart, and my family and I try to live by that.”
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