(CNN) — The woman who filed a harassment lawsuit against Paula Deen said Monday her suit “has never been about the N-word,” addressing the slur that has tarnished the celebrity chef’s image and cost her endorsements, a book deal and her TV show.
The statement from Lisa Jackson was the first since the scandal began last month, when Deen’s deposition in Jackson’s suit was made public.
In the deposition, Deen acknowledges using the racial slur more than once “a very long time” ago.
“This lawsuit has never been about the N-word,” Jackson says in the statement, provided to CNN’s Don Lemon by her lawyer, Matthew Billips. “It is to address Ms. Deen’s patterns of disrespect and degradation of people that she deems to be inferior.
“I may be a white woman, but I could no longer tolerate her abuse of power as a business owner, nor her condonation of Mr. Hier’s despicable behavior on a day-to-day basis. I am what I am, and I am a human being that cares about all races, and that is why I feel it is important to be the voice for those who are too afraid to use theirs.”
Jackson is a former manager at Deen’s restaurants in Savannah, Georgia. She is suing Deen and her brother, Bubba Hier, alleging they committed numerous acts of violence, discrimination and racism that resulted in the end of her five-year employment at Deen’s Lady & Sons and Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House eateries in Savannah.
Deen’s lawyer has called the allegations false, and Deen has said she does not tolerate prejudice.
The chef, famous for her smiling demeanor and love of butter, has made tearful apologies that have failed to suppress the controversy. Since the scandal began, she has lost at least nine endorsements, her Food Network cooking show, and publication of her eagerly anticipated cookbook has been canceled.