Paula Deen's Unlikely Defender: Bill Maher

The Atlantic Wire

After spending a few days roasting over an open fire, Paula Deen is cooked. She lost her job with the Food Network on Friday meaning that she is, for all intents and purposes, gone from our lives now. But an unusual voice spoke up in her defense last night: professional opinioner Bill Maher. Eater pointed us towards this video of Maher defending the former Food Network star on last night's Real Time with Bill Maher. This week, Deen was informed her contract wouldn't be renewed after she apologized for occasionally using "the N-word" and wanting a "Southern plantation style wedding" for her brother. "This may have been a shakedown," the host told his roundtable of guests. "People may have been trying to shake her down, that happens all the time, so I'm not sure what the original charge is. But she did admit to using the n-word, so the Food Network cut her off..." 

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After a quick rehash of events, the discussion quickly focuses on Maher and guest Bob Hebbert. Maher thinks that the Food Network overreacted by getting out of the Paula Deen business. "If you're 66 years old, and you were raised in Georgia, and you were a child before the civil rights movement, do you get a bit of a pass?" he asked. Hebbert, who is black and was sitting right next to Maher, immediately said no. 

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But Maher stood his ground, and argued that the move to fire Deen was another instance of the outrage economy that dominates modern discourse claiming a new victim. "I also think that people shouldn't have to lose their shows and go away when they do something bad," he said. Deen clearly did something reprehensible, that isn't up for debate, Maher says. But he also thinks firing her maybe wasn't the right thing to do. "It's just a word, it's a wrong word, she's wrong to use it. But do we always have to make people go away?" Hebbert argued that, yeah, you do have to go away if you're going to throw "the N-word" around. "It's a free country, she has the right to say that word. It's not illegal to say that word. But her boss said, 'you've gotta go if you're gonna use that word.'" 

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[Inset via AP]

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