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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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June 25th, 2013
06:34 PM ET

Brand expert: Paula Deen should do less interviews, more behind-the-scenes work

Paula Deen was dropped from the Food Network and lost a major endorsement deal for behavior offensive to millions of Americans - admitting she has used the racist n-word, and discussed her desire to have an Old South themed wedding.

But just when it seemed like Deen's career was toast, friends and family are stepping up to show they've got her back. Deen's sons spoke with Chris Cuomo on CNN's morning show "New Day," saying the allegations their mom is a racist are absurd. The fallout came after Deen was deposed and asked about her views on African-Americans during a lawsuit alleging discrimination

But her sons said the backlash has prompted "Team Deen" to come out in full force.

"We have so much local support now, so many friends that have come forward and spoken out for our family," son Jamie Deen told CNN's "New Day."

Deen is giving her first television interview Wednesday, to NBC's Today Show.

"After she does this interview tomorrow, I would be advising her not to do more interviews. I would advise most of her work to be behind the scenes. She needs to keep her sponsors on board," said brand and public relations expert Howard Bragman, founder of Reputation.com.

"She needs to reach out to the [wronged] community and make an extra effort to reach out to the African-American community and make sure she does things for them," said Bragman.  "She has to show that there's a level of 'I've done this community wrong and I'm going to make it right,' " said Bragman.

This is not just a story about a businesswoman or a brand. There is a horrific history of racism in this country, and studying the reaction to Deen's comments is a way to look at where America is as a country. Deen's supporters have been letting the Food Network have it ever since the announcement that her contract would not be renewed.

One fan wrote: "I don't care if she is or isn't racist. I just want to watch her make a pie. This is Food Network. Not let's play politically correct network."

Another post from supporter Patti White said, "I hope Food Network Channel goes down the drain. We support and love you Paula Deen you are an inspiration to all. Wherever you go we will follow you."

Bragman said he is not surprised the Food Network is getting so much heat from her fans.

"Of course Paula Deen has supporters out there. Of course there's a lot of discussion on whether or not Paula Deen was truly racist, what she said was inappropriate. Some people just want to let Paula Deen make biscuits," said Bragman.

Being accused of being racist is harsh, and is not something Deen can turn around with one interview, said Bragman.

"What she really hopes she can achieve is to stop the bleeding. And by bleeding I mean her sponsors leaving her, her network leaving her," said Bragman.

Deen also needs to play more of an offensive role in her public relations, she has thus far been defined by her deposition, by a lot of outsiders, and by the media, said Bragman.

"We haven't heard much from her defining her life, who she is, what her feelings are about, how this horrible deposition came to be, and some of these words that really didn't belong in that kind of document," said Bragman.

What has been so damaging to Deen is not just the admission that she used the n-word but also the idea that she contemplated having a wedding based on a romantic notion of the South during a horrible era, a really bad time for this nation.

Deen is in her 60s and was raised in Georgia.

"She needs to explain where she came from, how she was brought up, how she came to these kind of understandings," said Bragman. "She needs to show compassion for the African-American community."

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