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Sears, Penney sever ties with Paula Deen

  • Deen dissolved into tears during a "Today" show interview Wednesday about her admission that she used a racial slur in the past. The celebrity chef, who had backed out of a "Today" interview last Friday, said she was not a racist and was heartbroken by the controversy that began with her own deposition in a lawsuit. (AP Photo/NBC, Peter Kramer)

NEW YORK — Paula Deen's media and merchandising empire is collapsing.

Sears, J.C. Penney and Walgreen said Friday that they're cutting ties with 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, 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 said 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.

Ballantine, an imprint of Random House Inc., said it decided to cancel the book's publication after "careful consideration." It had no comment beyond what was in its brief statement, spokesman Stuart Applebaum said.

Sears Holdings Corp. said it will phase out all products tied to the Paula Deen brand after "careful consideration of all available information."

"We will continue to evaluate the situation," said the parent company of Sears and Kmart stores.

Both Sears and Kmart sold Paula Deen products.

In an email statement to The Associated Press, J.C. Penney Co. Inc. said it will stop selling Deen-branded products.

Walgreen Co. said it was phasing out Paula Deen-branded products, which include tortilla chips and a selection of soups.

QVC took a more gentle approach on Friday and said that it has decided to "take a pause" from Deen. The home shopping network said that Deen won't be appearing on any upcoming broadcasts, and it will phase out her product assortment on its online sales channels over the next few months.

"We all think it's important, at this moment, for Paula, to concentrate on responding to the allegations against her and on her path forward," said Mike George, QVC's president and CEO in a letter posted on the company's website.

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