The Savannah Morning News has posted a story detailing the history of what actually happened to Paula Deen. It is not a surprising story, but there are an awful lot of lessons to be learned. The first lesson is that it is risky to draw a conclusion based on what the mainstream media is telling you.
The article reports:
When Deen refused to pay $1.25 million in hush money last year to a former employee of her brother’s restaurant — a white woman who claimed, among other things, that Deen’s brother was guilty of racial discrimination — the lynch mob began forming.
“Exposure of the racist and sexist culture of her corporate and personal life is going to permanently, and irreparably, damage the value of the brand,” Savannah attorney S. Wesley Woolf warned in a Jan. 31, 2012, demand letter to Deen’s lawyer. He stated that “if we are unable to settle, the Complaint will not be quietly filed. I am making arrangements for a press conference on the day of the filing. I have identified the journalist for the New York Times who covers civil rights matters and he will be provided a pre-filing exclusive. A nationwide press release will be issued to the major networks, newspapers, newsmagazines and news websites across the country.”
And finally, the closer: “I hope that upon full and deliberate consideration of this offer, (your clients) will come to understand that the small price they quietly pay and that my client quietly accepts will allow Paula Deen a chance to salvage a brand that can continue to have value.”
I think the lawyer who wrote the letter requesting the hush money should be brought up on blackmail charges.
The second lesson here is how the media can make or break a story. If the media had ignored this lawyer’s press conference, his blackmail threat would have been moot.
Frankly I think Paula Deen should sue for damages. I have no idea who she should sue, but as long as lawsuits are threatened and flying, she should at least be able to recoup some of her losses.
There is a warning in this story. A successful business person is vulnerable to our legal system and to the media. It doesn’t matter what the actual circumstances are, if the media decides to ruin someone, they can easily do so. Part of this tale is the media’s fault for not telling the entire story, but part of this is the American public’s fault for buying into the class warfare narrative of the media. If Paula Deen were still a struggling single mother, the lawsuit would never have been brought and the media would not have made such a big deal out of it. This was never about civil rights–it was about blackmailing a successful business person, and the media played right along.