By Frank Bruni, the New York Times

Paula Deen is where sass meets crass, where the homespun and folksy curdle into something with a sour aftertaste.

Paula Deen, Southern cooking mogul

Paula Deen, Southern cooking mogul

Her manner may be as sugary as her cooking, her smile as big as the hams she hawked for Smithfield. But she doesn’t pause when she should. Doesn’t question herself when she must….

A fresh illustration of this traveled through cyberspace on Monday, a video that shows Deen at The New York Times last October, being interviewed onstage by my colleague Kim Severson. The subject of race comes up. [Begin viewing at 47:45.]

“I feel like the South is almost less prejudiced,” Deen says, “because black folks played such an integral part in our lives. They were like our family.”

Paula Deen introduces her young "friend" who is "black as this board." As she declaims that "race has nothing to do with it," she and Hollis embrace.

Paula Deen introduces her young “friend” who is “black as this board.” As she declaims that “race has nothing to do with it,” she and Hollis embrace.

That statement alone is awkward — she’s referring to servants, presumably — but she doesn’t stop there. Motioning to the inky backdrop behind her and Severson, she notes that her beloved driver, bodyguard and assistant, Hollis Johnson, is as “black as that board.”

“Come out here, Hollis,” she adds, looking offstage and directing the audience’s attention there. “We can’t see you standing against that dark board.”…

[Some] have urged clemency, noting that she’s 66 years old and has lived her life far south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Please. All of her adult years postdate the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and she’s a citizen of the world, traveling wide and far to peddle her wares. If she can leave Georgia for the sake of commerce, she can leave Georgia in the realm of consciousness.

Beyond which, people can change, growing past wrongful ways in the name of what’s right…

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