paula-deen-from-scratchThe Paula Deen Scandal in From Scratch: Inside the Food Network

Here is a more in-depth look at some of the emotions and facts that were seething beneath the surface. This offers a little more insight as to why the battle got so ugly.

Here now, an exclusive excerpt from the upcoming book From Scratch: Inside the Food Network by Allen Salkin. Written with “extensive inside access, documents, and interviews with hundreds of executives, stars, and employees all up and down the ladder,” the passage below is pulled from a chapter on the Paula Deen scandal, a last-minute addition to the book as the story broke this Summer.

The author Salkin has put together his concept about what happened on June 21, 2013. That was the day Paula Deen was supposed to go onto the Today show to discuss a leaked deposition in which she admitted to among other things, having used the N-word in the past. Deen bailed on the interview, releasing a string of bizarre apology videos later that afternoon before being informed that the Food Network would not be renewing her contract. Salkin tosses in some additional gems into the chapter as well, like the fact that the Food Network was “blindsided” by Deen’s diabetes announcement and pharma deal, or that she had negotiated shows for her sons the last time her contract was up.

Salkin tells Eater that “while Deen’s official spokespeople did not return calls seeking comment at the time I reported this chapter, the information in this excerpt was gathered from numerous sources inside the Deen camp, Deen’s business associates, and well-placed sources inside Food Network.” So keep that in mind while reading. From Scratch: Inside the Food Network comes out from Putnam Adult on October 1 (pre-order on Amazon).
Excerpt: From Scratch: Inside the Food Network by Allen Salkin

The National Enquirer ran the first story in June 2013 about a deposition in a racial- and sexual-harassment suit against Paula Deen and her brother: “Paula Deen’s Racist Confessions Caught on Video!” With the transcript online, a media storm ensued. “Paula Deen On Her Dream ‘Southern Plantation Wedding” Talking Points Memo announced. Opinion pieces attacking her followed.

There was controlled panic among Paula’s team. The timing was particularly awful for them because Paula’s contract with Food Network was expiring that very month. The previous time her contract had neared its end in 2010 her agents Barry Weiner and Jonathan Russo had played hardball, putting Paula on the open market and making Food Network bid for her against other suitors. Part of what they won was an agreement for the network to give her sons Jamie and Bobby each a season of their own shows.

The situation was different this time around, even before the N-word revelations. She had blindsided the network a year earlier with her announcement that she was suffering from diabetes and had signed a multi-million dollar deal with pharmaceutical company to endorse a treatment. Food Network executives were so peeved that Paula’s Best Dishes was put on hiatus and no new episodes were shot for about a year. In that time, Nielsen ratings for her shows still being broadcast were down almost 25 percent.

Jonathan had been negotiating with Food Network for months over a new contract for Paula. Her team was so sure an agreement would be reached that Follow Productions, the producer of her shows, had already begun preparations to shoot new episodes.

But as with Emeril, she had become an increasingly expensive star who was no longer pulling audiences like she used to, and it was taking awhile to come to an agreement. She was not alone in losing viewers. The only shows seeming to hold their own in the network’s In The Kitchen block were Pioneer Woman and Trisha’s Southern Kitchen: new faces. And in primetime, the news was also dispiriting, with a 15 percent decline in total households for the 2012-13 season.

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by Paula Forbes