Lifestyle guru Paula Deen has been on more of a defensive than an apology tour this week. Her most recent stop was on NBC’s “Today” show. During the interview, Deen spoke a great deal about how the scandal has affected her personally, but didn’t utter a direct apology.
“I have been overwhelmed and in a state of shock,” said Deen. “There have been some very hurtful lies said about me.”
Lauer came out of the chute by grilling Deen on how the loss of sponsors and endorsement deals have affect her, and her business empire.
“Let me say this Matt,” Deen said, “what I am here today to talk about is what I believe, and how I live my life. I believe that every creature on this Earth, every one of God’s creatures was created equal.”
Lauer pushed the financial issue by quoting a headline that touted there were millions of dollars at stake tied to the “Today” show interview.
“Are you here to stop the financial bleeding,” Lauer asked.
“I am here today because I want people to really know who I am,” replied Deen once again deflecting the question.
The scandal stems from testimony offered in a deposition by Deen about her use of the derogatory “n” word with employees at her restaurants. Deen’s use of the word was also brought up in relation to a plantation themed wedding her restaurant catered for a private client.
“I am so grateful for the (business) partners that have stood by me,” was Deen’s only response to the number of sponsors who have dropped her brand or were considering doing so.
Lauer followed up by asking the burning hot-button question…is Paula Deen a racist?
“No, I am not a racist,” replied Deen. “I was raised in a house hold with a father who would tolerate bad grades or a broken curfew, but told me ‘girl if I ever find out that you have behaved in a way like you are better than anyone else your butt is mine.”
Lauer later asked Deen about her alleged use of the “n” word in the past. He cited that Deen admitted to using the word in her sworn deposition, and included an excerpt from her testimony regarding whether using the “n” word when telling a joke was acceptable.
Deen’s response was as follows:
“I don’t know. Most jokes are about Jewish people, rednecks, black folks…I didn’t make up the jokes. They usually target, though, a group…I can’t, myself, determine what offends another person.”
“Do you have any doubt that African Americans are offended by the ‘n’ word,” asked Lauer.
“I don’t know Matt,” responded Deen. “I have asked myself that so many times because it’s so distressing to go into my kitchens and I hear what these young people are calling each other. It’s very, very distressing.”
“You never joined in on that language,” asked Lauer.
“No,” said Deen emphatically, “absolutely not!”
Later, Lauer asked Deen if upon reflection she wished that she had fudged the truth a bit.
“No,” she replied. “I am only prejudiced against two types of people; thieves and liars.”
Deen became quite emotional at the end of the interview, and while never offering an actual apology, alluded to the fact that she has apologized on previous occasions, and spoke about how the hurtful words and speculation had been damaging to not just Deen and her business but to family and friends as well.
“The people that know me, they are angry,” she said.
At the end of the interview, Deen evoked the words in the Bible regarding sin, and chalked up much of what has happened to a case of professional jealousy.
“If there is a person out there that has never said something that they wish they could take back, if you’re out there, please pick up that stone and throw it so hard at my head that it kills me, please. I want to meet you. I is what I is, and I’m not changing. And, there’s someone evil out there that saw what I had worked for and they wanted it.”
What do you think of Paula’s interview on the “Today” show? Weigh in with comments.