ATLANTA (AP) – Authorities on Friday arrested a New York man charged with trying to extort money from embattled celebrity cook Paula Deen in exchange for not going to the news media with “true and damning statements” he said she made.
FBI agents and local sheriff’s deputies arrested Thomas George Paculis, 62, of Newfield, N.Y., Friday morning. A criminal complaint filed Wednesday in federal court in Savannah, Ga., charges him with extortion.
The complaint says Paculis was threatening to go to the media with statements made by Deen unless the former Food Network star gave him $250,000. The complaint does not specify what was in the statements Paculis claimed were made by Deen.
Paculis did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Friday. A call to a phone number for Paculis found in the criminal complaint rang unanswered. He had his initial court appearance Friday in New York and was released on bond, said FBI Special Agent Stephen Emmett in Atlanta. He has been ordered to appear in federal court in Savannah on July 16.
Sears, J.C. Penney and Walgreen said Friday that they’re cutting ties with Paula Deen, adding to the growing list of companies severing their relationship following revelations that the Southern celebrity chef used racial slurs in the past.
Meanwhile, Paula Deen’s publisher has canceled a deal with her for multiple books, including an upcoming cookbook that was the No. 1 seller on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com.
Ballantine Books announced Friday it would not release “Paula Deen’s New Testament: 250 Favorite Recipes, All Lightened Up,” which was scheduled for October and was the first of a five-book deal announced early last year. Interest in it had surged as Deen, who grew up in Albany, Ga., and specializes in Southern comfort food, came under increasing attack for acknowledging she had used the N-word.
Retailers Target Corp. and Home Depot Inc. and diabetes drug maker Novo Nordisk became the latest companies to sever ties or distance themselves from celebrity cook Paula Deen as fallout builds from revelations that the Southern celebrity chef used racial slurs in the past.
Target, based in Minneapolis, said Thursday that it will phase out its Paula Deen-branded cookware and other items, which were sold on its website and in its stores.
“Once the merchandise is sold out, we will not be replenishing inventory,” said Molly Snyder, a Target spokeswoman.
Despite her teary mea culpa on NBC’s “Today” show, two additional companies decided to part ways with Paula Deen Wednesday afternoon.
Caesars announced its decision to strip Deen’s name from four of its buffet restaurants, while Wal-Mart Stores Inc. disclosed shortly after its plans to sever ties with the culinary figure. The world’s largest retailer said it will not be placing “any new orders beyond what’s already committed.” The Bentonville, Ark.-based company has carried a range of products under the Paula Deen moniker since 2011.
Smithfield Foods dropped Deen on Monday, while the Food Network announced Friday that it was not renewing Deen’s contract after she had skipped her initial “Today’ show appearance that morning and released a series of apology videos via YouTube that afternoon.
The celebrity chef dissolved into tears during Wednesday’s interview with Matt Lauer as she attempted to explain how she wasn’t a racist- although a deposition filed and leaked last week revealed her use of racial slurs in the past. It was an odd disparity between the Paula Deen known for her cheery, comforting disposition, and the Paula Deen who appeared on the “Today” show, defeated, exhausted and “heartbroken.
English: Logo for Food Network (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — The Food Network said Friday it’s dumping Paula Deen, barely an hour after the celebrity cook posted the first of two videotaped apologies online begging forgiveness from fans and critics troubled by her admission to having used racial slurs in the past.
The 66-year-old Savannah kitchen celebrity has been swamped in controversy since court documents filed this week revealed Deen told an attorney questioning her under oath last month that she has used the N-word. “Yes, of course,” Deen said, though she added, “It’s been a very long time.”
The Food Network, which made Deen a star with “Paula’s Home Cooking” in 2002 and later “Paula’s Home Cooking” in 2008, weighed in with a terse statement Friday afternoon.
“Food Network will not renew Paula Deen’s contract when it expires at the end of this month,” the statement said. Network representatives declined further comment. A representative for Deen did not immediately return phone and email messages seeking comment on the decision.