Georgia Pastor Says Paula Deen Can't Be Racist

After the Food Network announced Friday it had dumped celebrity chef Paula Deen for using the N-word and cracking racist jokes, a black pastor from Georgia, who is friends with her, came forward to defend her, saying she can't be a racist.

"I know her. My children have been to her house. I've been to her house, I've sat on her furniture. I've been all through her house. What racist would let a black man walk all through her house?" Pastor Gregory A. Tyson, Sr., from First Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church in Savannah, said during an interview with WTOC Friday.

The pastor mentioned Hollis Johnson, a black man who manages much of the chef's affairs and travels with her. "She is a mother to him, a mother figure," he said.

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The Food Network's announcement, that her contract will not be renewed after it expires at the end of June, came hours after Deen, a Savannah resident, publicly apologized. "I want to apologize to everybody for the wrong I have done. I want to learn and grow from this," Deen said in a video posted on YouTube on Friday. "Inappropriate, hurtful language is totally, totally unacceptable."

It was revealed this week that Deen, who currently has three regular programs on the network, admitted to using the N-word during her deposition in a discrimination lawsuit filed last year by a former employee at Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House, a restaurant in Savannah she and her brother Bubba Hiers own. She also reportedly admitted to condoning pornography in the workplace.

"People are going to jump on it and believe what they want to believe and add what they want to add," Pastor Tyson said. "But one thing I can sit here today and look you in the face and tell you is that woman can't be a racist. She can't have a heart against black people with all that she had done, and all she continues to do. That is why I'm here with you today to be a character witness for Miss Paula Deen because she is a beautiful person, a beautiful spirit."

About Deen's confession, Tyson said, "She stood up and confessed and made the point that she did use the word. Who hasn't? That doesn't make her a racist. Would a racist give thousands of dollars to an organization that helps black boys?"

"Bubba and I, neither one of us, care what the color of your skin is," Deen, 66, said in a longer video that replaced the previous YouTube video on Friday. "It's what's in your heart and in your head that matters to us."

She added, "I was wrong, yes, I've worked hard, and I have made mistakes, but that is no excuse and I offer my sincere apology to those that I have hurt, and I hope that you forgive me because this comes from the deepest part of my heart."

Deen has been on the network since 2002 when she appeared on "Paula's Home Cooking" and later added "Paula's Best Dishes" to the channel in 2008.

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