Wal-Mart latest to sever ties with Paula Deen
By ANNE D’INNOCENZIO
AP Retail Writer
NEW YORK (AP)
Paula Deen lost another chunk of her empire on Wednesday.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced that it has ended its relationship with the Southern celebrity chef, part of the continuing fallout in the wake of revelations that she used racial slurs in the past.
The world’s largest retailer, based in Bentonville, Ark., currently carries a variety of products under her moniker, including food items, cookware and health and wellness products, at all of its 4,000 U.S. namesake stores. The retailer began selling her merchandise several years ago.
“We will not place new orders beyond those already committed,” said Dave Tovar, a Wal-Mart spokesman. “We will work with suppliers to address existing inventories and agreements.”
Tovar said the retailer is still working through the details with suppliers.
The severed ties with Wal-Mart are the latest blow to Deen’s business. Meanwhile, Paula Deen’s name is being stripped from four buffet restaurants owned by Caesars. Caesars said Wednesday that its decision to rebrand its restaurants in Joliet, Ill.; Tunica, Miss.; Cherokee, N.C.; and Elizabether, Ind., was a mutual one with Deen.
Last week, the Food Network said that it would not renew the celebrity cook’s contract. And on Monday, Smithfield Foods said it was dropping her as a spokeswoman. Smithfield sold Paula Deen-branded hams in addition to featuring her as a spokeswoman.
Meanwhile, the celebrity chef’s representatives distributed four letters supporting Deen from other companies that work with her, as she fights to keep her business empire from crumbling.
Target Corp., which carries Paula Deen-branded products, reiterated Wednesday it was “evaluating the situation.”
Deen appeared in a “Today” show interview earlier Wednesday, dissolving into tears and saying that anyone in the audience who’s never said anything they’ve regretted should pick up a rock and throw it at her head.
The chef, who specializes in Southern comfort food, repeated that she’s not a racist.
AP Television Writer Dave Bauder contributed to this report.