The woman who sued Paula Deen and brought to light the southern cooking queen's past use of racial slurs says her "lawsuit has never been about the N-word."
Lisa Jackson, whose suit had accused Deen of sexual harassment and racial discrimination, told Today.com in a statement Monday that she instead had intended "to address Ms. Deen’s patterns of disrespect and degradation of people that she deems to be inferior."
This is the first time that Jackson has spoken out about the brewing controversy since the scandal surrounding Deen's slur use broke.
Jackson, a former manager at Deen’s Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House restaurant in Savannah, sued the 66-year-old celebrity chef and her brother Bubba Hiers last year. Both deny any wrongdoing, according to court records.
“I may be a white woman, but I could no longer tolerate her abuse of power as a business owner, nor her condonation of Mr. Hier’s despicable behavior on a day-to-day basis,” Jackson said in the statement. “I am what I am, and I am a human being that cares about discrimination in the workplace. In part, in this circumstance, I have to be a voice for those who are too afraid to use theirs."
Deen’s May 17 deposition pertaining to the lawsuit, in which she admitted to using the N-word and considered planning a “plantation-style” Southern wedding with an all-black wait staff, cost her deals with at least 12 companies including Wal-Mart, Sears and J.C. Penney.
Deen had admitted in that deposition that she used the N-word in the past, but had not done so in a very long time. In an interview on Today last Wednesday, Deen tearfully said that she was not a racist and had only used the N-word one time in 1986 to describe a black man who had held a gun to her head during a robbery when she was a bank teller in southwest Georgia.
The former Food Network personality's lawyers have argued that Jackson’s claims are baseless. Many of her supporters have also come out in her defense on social media sites, saying that Deen shouldn’t be punished for something that she said years ago.