TV cooking maven Paula Deen's awkward pair of apologies Friday was just the latest in a storied history of celebs' public, and often very uncomfortable, mea culpas for racist, anti-Semitic and otherwise bigoted remarks.
Deen's confession to lawyers in a race bias case against her that she has used the N-word numerous times before was greeted with horror by her fans , and by her long-time home the Food Network, which said Friday that it was dropping the star.
Deen's reaction to the outrage over her comments? To stand up Matt Lauer for a scheduled "Today" show appearance, then post a heavily edited, 46-second video apology on YouTube and then, finally, pull that video and replace it with another.
Her mode of public apology wasn't that far from how other celebs have eaten crow after making offensive remarks of their own. Here are a few.
Michael Richards. "Talk about a bad night," Michael Richards told David Letterman of the 2006 stand-up show at which he showered racial slurs on audience members — but he could just as easily have been describing his rambling, awkward and somewhat self-pitying apology on "The Late Show." "I'm really busted up over this," said the man better known to "Seinfeld" fans as Kramer, before rambling uneasily about racism, introspection and Hurricane Katrina. "I'm not a racist, that's what's so insane about this," he insisted, before giving a classic not-quite-apology: "I'm sorry that it happened."
Mel Gibson. After unleashing an anti-Semitic tirade on a police officer who pulled him over for driving drunk in 2006, Mel Gibson appeared on "Good Morning America" to save face. In his interview with Diane Sawyer, he ramblingly blamed his abusive rant against Jews on alcohol, which he said made him act unlike himself and with which he had struggled in the past. What if the cop had been black, Sawyer asked? What would you have done in that case? "Who knows? I'd have to get loaded again and tell you," Gibson said. "I'm kind of a work in progress right now," he admitted, laughing.
John Galliano. Couture fashion designer John Galliano — ousted from Christian Dior in 2011 after he was caught on cell phone video sloshed in a Paris bar, proclaiming "I love Hitler" — also blamed the bottle. But he gave a much more sober interview to Charlie Rose this year than Gibson did to Sawyer, even if he did prefer to talk about his career instead of the anti-Semitic elephant in the room. As for the tirade itself? "I have no memory of that event," Galliano said, insisted he was blacked-out drunk. "I'm not an anti-Semite. I'm not a racist. I know I'm not." That claim may have rung truer had Galliano not been recently photographed in apparently Hasidic-inspired garb widely interpreted as mocking Jews.
Don Imus. Sure, one should expect a curmudgeonly syndicated radio host to offend — but to call a college women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos?" The slur Don Imus uttered on his show in 2007 killed two birds with one stone (racism, check; sexism, check), and after the firestorm of criticism, he was woefully slow on the uptake. The next day, he wondered why it was such a big deal — he had only, after all, made "some idiot comment meant to be amusing." A day later, he finally gave the brief, contrite apology everybody wanted. "Our characterization was thoughtless and stupid, and we are sorry," he said.
Dr. Laura. Laura Schlessinger, the conservative talk radio commentator better known to listeners as Dr. Laura, isn't one to sugarcoat advice to callers. But in 2010, even she knew she'd erred in how she responded to a black woman seeking help dealing with her in-laws' racism. Schlessinger suggested the caller was "hypersensitive" and went off on an unrelated tangent about some black Americans' use of the N-word — all while freely using the slur herself on the air. "If you're that hypersensitive about color and don't have a sense of humor, don't marry out of your race," Schlessinger advised, before accusing the caller of "black-think." Schlessinger later backtracked on her blog, though her apology was undercut by her self-defense. "I was attempting to make a philosophical point," she wrote.