Paula Deen's recent fall from grace due to her use of racial slurs is only the latest in a long line of celebrities who've made insensitive or downright racist remarks. But while there are some whose careers have never recovered (Michael Richards), many have been able to come back from their disgrace to continue their carreers. Comedian Bill Burr was optimistic about Deen's chance at a comeback on this recent appearance on Conan. And there are a few others who could show her the way.
With that in mind, here are seven celebrities that have been able to weather the storm caused by their big mouths.
As mentioned by Bill Burr, Duane "Dog" Chapman (better known as Dog The Bounty Hunter) got into trouble in November 2007 for using the N-word in a recorded argument with his son Tucker. In the conversation, Dog tells Tucker to break up with his girlfriend, who is black, because he fears she would hear him and family members using the N-word (which he seems to indicate happens a lot) and "turn us in to the Enquirer magazine."
Tucker then sold the recording to — you guessed it — the National Enquirer. Cable network A&E promptly suspended production of the popular reality show bearing Dog's name. After calling Reverend Al Sharpton and appearing on Larry King Live to apologize, and a rather short stint in the media penalty box, all was forgiven and Dog was back on the air in March 2008.
Back on April 4, 2007, when Don Imus was host of MSNBC's simulcast of Imus in the Morning, he commented on the Rutgers women's basketball team, referring to the mostly black players as "nappy-headed hoes." A few days later, Imus went on Al Sharpton's radio program to apologize. Sharpton (who ironically has his own history of bigoted remarks), repeated his demand for Imus to be fired, saying that though Imus became famous for his acid tongue, not everyone deserves to be made fun of. Imus was suspended from his radio show and his MSNBC simulcast was cancelled.
His radio show gone, Imus seemed finished. But by December he was back on the air on a new radio show. Even though he has made other questionable remarks since then, his syndicated show is still on the air, and in 2012 he signed a contract Cumulus Media for another three years.
Mark Fuhrman came to fame, and infamy, as the LAPD detective who discovered the bloody glove in the OJ Simpson murder case. During the murder trial, Fuhrman was cross-examined by Simpson's defense on whether he had ever used racial slurs. Fuhrman denied having done so, and when witnesses and an audiotape contradicted those denials, his credibility was shot. It turned out that Fuhrman had not only used the N-word, but had made some downright disturbing statments in the past, in one instance recounting how he enjoyed kicking black gang members while saying "You do what you're told, understand, n***er?" and expressing his desire to burn all blacks. It was these ugly revelations that seriously damaged Fuhrman's credibility and, some believe, led to Simpson's acquital.
Despite helping blow the "Trial of the Century" and getting convicted of perjury, Fuhrman has made something of a recovery since then. He has gone on to write several books on famous murders. One of them, about the killing of Martha Moxley, was even made into a TV movie. Fuhrman also is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity's radio program.
John Galliano is a world-famous fashion designer, best-known for his work with the labels Givenchy and Christian Dior. Unfortunately, he's also known for making anti-Semitic remarks, which were caught on tape. In 2011, Galliano was in a Paris bar and apparently drunk when he said "I love Hitler ... People like you would be dead. Your mothers, your forefathers would all be f*****g gassed."
The only problem for Mr. Galliano is that he addressed that statement mainly in the presence of French and Italians, the latter of which were allied with Hitler during the war, making Galliano's statement not just offensive but also historically wrong. On a separate occasion he also threatened to kill Philippe Virgitti, an associate of one of his (former) friends, saying he had "a dirty Jew face." Virgitti is of Asian descent, making Galliano 0-2 as one of the world's most inept anti-semites.
For his offensive remarks, Galliano was dropped from Dior and in March 2011 was charged by French authorities with making racist comments and later fined (Pro-Nazi speech and anti-semetic remarks are outlawed in France). Since then, Galliano has bounced back. In early 2013 he started working with fellow designer Oscar de la Renta. He also began meeting with the creative director of Vogue magazine. In a June interview on Charlie Rose, he expressed contrition for his actions and stated he was "ready to create" once more.
Mel has had not one, but two major racial slur scandals, leading one to wonder not just who he doesn't hate, but how he is still able to still find employment at all. First, during a traffic stop and arrest for drunk driving in 2006, he was reported to have made anti-semitic slurs to the arresting officer, blaming Jews for "all the wars in the world," among other things. In the media circus that followed, Gibson publicly apologized several times, blaming his actions on his alcoholism. The response from Hollywood was reportedly mixed, but whether by design or his inability to find employment, Mel laid low for a few years and did not work on a major project until 2010's Edge of Darkness.
Later that year, his second racial slur scandal broke when transcripts of a secretly-recorded argument with his girlfriend were published. This time he was heard using the N-word in a particularly vile context, and later on the tape used the term "wetback" to describe a Latino worker. No heartfelt apologies or carefully worded statements were issued that time around, perhaps because Mel sensed that no one would buy it. Nevertheless, after keeping quiet for a while, he appeared in The Beaver in 2011, directed by his old friend Jodie Foster, and he has a supporting role in Machete Kills, due out this fall.
What list of controversial celebrities would be complete without everyone's favorite problem-child? In terms of controversy, Sheen beats most celebrities, but they mostly stemmed from alcohol and drug abuse, rather than race. Of course, with Sheen's record of mayhem, he was practically overdue for a racial scandal.
In 2005 he left a message on his ex-wife's answering machine where he calls her every ephitet under the sun, including "You're a coward and a liar and a f***ing n***er alright, so f**k you." That's particularly curious, because Denise Richards, his ex-wife, isn't even black. Sheen apologized for the remark, saying that the best man at his wedding was black, thereby basically resorting to the "my best friends are black" defense.
That racial outburt wasn't enough to derail Sheen's then-successful television career, where he had been starring in the CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men since 2003. It would take until 2011 for his behavior to catch up with him, meaning he had a pretty good run considering his behavior. He may no longer be on Two and a Half Men, but he continues to star in movies such as Machete Kills and has a line of electronic cigarettes called "Nico-Sheen."