Just as parents will do anything to save their children from harm, so too will children do anything to protect their parents. The instinct to close ranks and go on the defensive is strong, passionate, and often blinding.
So it is no surprise that on Tuesday morning Paula Deen’s two sons, Jamie and Bobby, went on CNN’s New Day to not only defend their embattled mother, but also save her rapidly vanishing financial empire. Their exclusive interview wasn’t entirely altruistic, of course, since their own livelihoods — which include a television show each, books, endorsement deals, and speaking engagements — are grounded in their mother’s fame.
But that filial instinct probably means that the time has come for the Food Network to drop them, too.
Instead of apologizing for their mother’s behavior or expressing contrition for the ugliness that arose from her deposition, Jamie and Bobby made matters worse. They made excuses, attacks, denials. But not apologies.
“These accusations are very hurtful to her, and it’s very sad, and frankly I’m disgusted by the entire thing because it began as extortion, and it’s become character assassination, and our mother is not the picture that’s being painted of her,” Bobby Deen, 41, said in the interview.
When asked by CNN anchor Chris Cuomo why Paula Deen would say under oath that she taught them that there can be acceptable uses of the N-word, they essentially said she lied.
“That’s completely false,” said Jamie Deen, 44, adding that, “These are her words, and not for Bobby and I.”
Added Bobby, “She has never said those words to me.”
So, clearly someone’s lying, and it seems unlikely that the one admitting to racism is the one being untruthful.
Jamie even went so far as to lay the groundwork for the family’s defense against further allegations by rhetorically asking Cuomo regarding anyone else who might come forward with similar charges, “You think people are going to take this opportunity to come out and try to get their piece now?”
“It’s part of the price you pay when you’re in, you know, you have a high profile business or the television shows or whatever that Mom might do,” he added.
The only thing less genuine than the “that’s the price of fame” argument would be if one of the sons recounted a story about how Hank Aaron or some other prominent athlete of African-American descent was a hero to them to underscore how not racist they are.
Oh wait, that’s exactly what Jamie did, recounting how Aaron was his hero growing up and how Paula and her husband gave him pajamas featuring the famed Atlanta Braves slugger.
Taken together, it seems completely inconsistent for the Food Network to drop Paula but keep Jamie and Bobby. Consistency would dictate that the network not only punish the sinner, but also those who are denying the sin. You can’t hold one party responsible and turn a blind eye towards the other.
What Jamie and Bobby are essentially saying in their interview is that their mother isn’t so bad, and that she’s being treated unfairly. What they decidedly are not saying is that she was wrong or apologizing for the situation or how they plan to address it going forward. Basically, they are defending and protecting their mother against what they feel is an inaccurate portrait of her — and, by extension, them. They are closing family ranks. You, viewer, don’t know us, and therefore you don’t know much.
A Food Network representative told BuzzFeed Tuesday it had no further comment at this time beyond its original statement that Bobby’s show, Not My Mama’s Meals, and Jamie’s show, Home for Dinner, would be unaffected by the situation surrounding their mother.
But how much longer can the network hold steady to that position? In defending and protecting their mother, Jamie and Bobby made the situation worse for everyone. Put it this way, if Bobby Flay and Mario Batali went on CNN and gave the same interview, would they remain on the air?