Paula Deen's fans are standing behind her and urging forgiveness after the Food Network decided not to renew her contract in the wake of her admission that she used racial slurs.
"I'm able to forgive her because we do it in our own culture, and you guys do it in your own culture," Atlanta resident Sophia Starnes said after having dinner at The Lady and Sons. "You have words that you use for each other, and that's why I don't take it so personal because I know that's not who I am."
Starnes says she comes to the Lady and Sons every time she visits Savannah and doesn't plan to stop. Friends who joined her for dinner echoed the support.
"Was it right, no," China Smith said. "I mean, she could have used another term. But hey, it was a mistake that she made."
Tourists thronged the restaurant, as they do every night and say they're deeply disappointed to learn that Deen has lost her show.
"She made a mistake and she said that, and I think maybe we ought to take that for what it's worth," Dean Gibbs, of Spartanburg, S.C., said before dinner at The Lady and Sons.
Starnes acknowledged the seriousness of the epithet but said, "I think this is a learning lesson for her as well as for the people who do forgive her."
WTOC tried speaking to several Savannah and Chatham County government and business leaders about the news, but they all declined comment, saying they either didn't want to become part of the controversy or didn't think it was appropriate to comment.