Home Depot severs Paula Deen ties

Home Depot won’t be selling celebrity chef’s Paula Deen’s products online anymore.

The Atlanta-based company, following the lead of other national retailers, confirmed it had removed the dining diva’s products from its online cookware store on Wednesday after revelations that Deen, answering questions in a sexual harassment and racial discrimination lawsuit, admitted using racist language in the past.

The separation is “a result of the recent controversy about her remarks,” Home Depot spokesman Stephen Holmes said.

Holmes said Deen’s products were sold via homedepot.com by a distributor and not directly by the company. He declined to discuss details on sales figures for the products and said he did not know how long the products had been sold on the company’s website.

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Home Depot’s decision to dump Deen follows those by a number of companies, including Walmart, Smithfield Foods, Target and Food Network, where the chef, known for her Southern dishes and down-home flair, had been a staple.

Other companies that have not yet decided to continue their relationship with Deen include JCPenney, Sears and Hoffman Media, publisher of her magazine, “Cooking with Paula Deen.”

Deen has apologized for her comments in online videos as well as during an interview earlier in the week on the “Today” show. Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson on Thursday said he would help Deen make amends and that he didn’t want her to become a “sacrificial lamb” over racial division.

Tim Calkins, a branding expert at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in Chicago, said he is not surprised by the company defections. Companies operate on low-risk and the insertion of racial issues in business is toxic.

“They are saying it’s too controversial for us to keep that connection,” he said. “Severing ties is the safe thing to do.”

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