As the New York Times' Frank Bruni put it, "She had waited three long, greasy years since her diagnosis to come out. During that period, she promoted the deep-fried life without acknowledging her firsthand experience of how a person can be burned by it."
Food Politics author Marion Nestle slammed Deen for striking a "common folk" pose while shilling a $500-a-month drug. Even the Wall Street Journal weighed in, teasing apart the contradictions of Deen's position from a brand perspective in "Paula Deen Pitch Hard to Swallow."
An unrepentant Deen said she'd given up sweet tea and claimed to have always seasoned her outrageous concoctions (fried butter balls, doughnut-based cheeseburgers, etc.) with a call to "practice moderation, y'all."
In the Albany Times-Union, Susan Levin shot back: "It's not the sweet tea. It's the butter, the beef and the bacon. . . . It's time to admit that modest reforms to profoundly unhealthy eating habits will not rescue anyone from diabetes and obesity - even if you throw in a heaping helping of expensive pharmaceuticals."
Deen tried to have it both ways. Ironically, that's what many of my veggie colleagues have been doing. How? By insisting that Deen should fight her diabetes by "going vegan." Many claimed this one step alone would vastly improve Deen's (and her fans') health, if not outright reverse her condition.
But vegan is not synonymous with healthy. And when we imply it is, we're double-dipping, too.
Yes, vegans can have comforting cake, candy and ice cream - and potato chips, french fries, hot dogs and toaster waffles - without sacrifice. And yes, a low-fat, plant-based diet is a key component in dramatically reversing some health conditions. But realistically, those are two poles: The more rich food you eat, the less health benefit you get.
Granted, going animal-free ditches dietary cholesterol, cuts saturated fat (less prevalent in plant foods) and ups fiber intake (animal foods have no fiber), so there is a health plus. And a guiding ethical principle can strengthen the willpower it takes to stick with an eating plan and resist junky habits.
Prove it? OK. This year I've made a resolution everyone can share: While easing a tiny bit on vegan treats, I plan to double my consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. Who's with me?
V for Visibility: Our galleries of street signs touting "Vegan" or "Vegetarian" foods are growing daily at philly.com/vsigns. Thanks to everyone who contributed so far - there's room for more!
Vance Lehmkuhl is a cartoonist, writer, musician and 10-year vegan.
"V for Veg" chronicles the growing trend of plant-based eating in and around Philadelphia. Send your veg tips to VforVeg@phillynews.com and follow @V4Veg on Twitter.