Target Corp. said Thursday that it is ending its relationship with celebrity cook Paula Deen as fallout builds from revelations that the Southern celebrity chef used racial slurs in the past.
The Minneapolis-based retailer said that it will phase out its Paula Deen-branded cookware and other items.
Target gave no reason for ending the relationship with Deen. But retail consultant Howard Davidowitz said Target had no choice, given how many customers would find Deen's comments offensive.
"If you're Target and you've got 50 million customers, you might not want to be associated with this," said Davidowitz. "Target is known as a very ethical company. It's among the top in ethics and standards. Walmart walked away. Why wouldn't Target?"
"This is somone who is the brand. So, if she says something like this, it can just be too harmful to be associated with that."
The developments are the latest blow to Deen's business.
Diabetes drug maker Novo Nordisk said Thursday it and Deen have "mutually agreed to suspend our patient education activities for now."
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, said Wednesday that it's also cutting ties with Deen. The world's largest retailer currently carries a variety of products under her moniker, including food items, cookware and health and wellness products, at all of its 4,000 U.S. namesake stores. The retailer began selling her merchandise several years ago. Wal-Mart said it will not place any new orders beyond what's already committed and is working with suppliers to address existing inventories and agreements.
Meanwhile, Paula Deen's name is being stripped from four buffet restaurants owned by Caesars. Caesars said Wednesday that its decision to rebrand its restaurants in Joliet, Ill.; Tunica, Miss.; Cherokee, N.C.; and Elizabeth, Ind., was a mutual one with Deen.
Last week, the Food Network said that it would not renew the celebrity cook's contract. And on Monday, Smithfield Foods said it was dropping her as a spokeswoman. Smithfield sold Paula Deen-branded hams in addition to featuring her as a spokeswoman.
Amid the losses, book-buyers are standing by Deen.
As of Thursday morning, "Paula Deen's New Testament: 250 Recipes, All Lightened Up," ranked No. 1 on Amazon.com. The book is scheduled for October. Another Deen book, "Paula Deen's Southern Cooking Bible," was at No. 13. Several other Deen books were out of stock.
Deen appeared in a "Today" show interview Wednesday, dissolving into tears and saying that anyone in the audience who's never said anything they've regretted should pick up a rock and throw it at her head.
The chef, who specializes in Southern comfort food, repeated that she's not a racist.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.