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Jesse Jackson's group looking into Deen empire

Jesse Jackson's group looking into Deen empire

Paula DeenPaula Deen
SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH coalition was in Savannah last week, talking to people who worked for Paula Deen's Lady and Sons restaurant -- and for her brother's oyster house -- Uncle Bubba's. 

Rainbow/PUSH Attorney Robert Patillo says problems with the restaurants go beyond current media reports, that the group has talked to several employees who say black people were held back from promotions, that racist and sexist jokes were tolerated and that one manager even called an employee a monkey.

"The 'n-word' is the smallest portion of this," Patillo said. "It's the manifestation of those personal prejudices into employment policies that have worked to injure individuals.

In a May deposition stemming from a lawsuit against her brother, Bubba Heirs, Deen admitted only to that n-word in the past but says it had been a quote "very long time ago." She has denied making racist jokes -- or allowing racial harassment.

Some doubting whether the Deen brand will recover. Smithfield -- the largest producer of pork products in the U.S. -- dropped Deen as a spokeswoman Monday, three days after the Food Network dropped her shows.

"Context is never an excuse for using derogatory statements toward any group or race of people," Public Relations and Brand Strategist Marvet Britto said.

Patillo says Rainbow/PUSH is coming back to Savannah this weekend to continue investigating employee claims.

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