NEW YORK (CBSMiami/AP) – Paula Deen was emotional and eventually dissolved into tears during a “Today” show interview Wednesday about her admission that she used a racial slur in the past, saying anyone in the audience who’s never said anything they’ve regretted should pick up a rock and throw it at her head.
The celebrity chef, who had backed out of a “Today” interview last Friday, said she was not a racist and was heartbroken by the controversy that began with her own deposition in a lawsuit. Deen has been dropped by the Food Network and as a celebrity endorser by Smithfield Foods.
Deen said. “I am so very thankful for the partners I have who believe in me.”
Matt Lauer wasted no time getting to the hard questions. “Are you a racist?” he asked. “No, I am not,” Deen, 66, said. “The day I used that word it was a world ago,” Deen added. “It was 30 years ago.”
Lauer then pushed a little harder, asking Deen if she had really only used the N-word one time in her entire life. Deen insisted she only uttered the word on one occasion — when talking about a customer who had burst into her office and put a gun to her head.
Deen went on to describe her upbringing. “As a child I was raised in a home that my father tolerated bad grades. He would tolerate maybe me breaking a curfew,” she said, noting that her family wouldn’t have tolerated her thinking she was better than anyone else.
Later, Deen spoke about hearing what young people say to one another, noting it makes her “skin crawl”: “It’s very distressing for me to go in my kitchens and I hear what these young people are calling each other…It’s very distressing for me.”
It was only when Lauer asked Deen if she wished she had “fudged the truth” under oath in the discrimination case that she got really emotional. “No, because there are a couple kinds of people that I’m prejudiced against — and that is thieves and liars,” said Deen, who went on to tell a story about her grandchild and the importance of telling the truth.
“That’s how I raised my children. That’s how I was raised.and that’s how my grandchildren are raised,” said Deen.
During the rest of the interview, Deen fought back tears.
“I have apologized, and I have never, ever…with any intention hurt anybody on purpose,” Deen said, adding that she can’t change who she is: “What you see is what you get…I’m heartbroken…I’ve had to hold friends in my arms who have sobbed because they know what’s been said about me…I’ve had wonderful support from Reverend Jackson.
And even as Lauer tried to wrap up the segment, Deen continued to talk through tears, asking if there’s anyone who has never said something they regret.
Looking distressed and her voice breaking, Deen said if there was someone in the audience who had never said something they wished they could take back, “please pick up that stone and throw it as hard at my head so it kills me. I want to meet you. I want to meet you.
“I is what I is and I’m not changing,” she said.
Deen said she appreciated fans who have expressed anger at the Food Network for dropping her, but said she didn’t support a boycott of the network.
“These people who have met me and know me and love me, they’re as angry as the people who are reading these stories that are lies,” she said.
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