With tears in her eyes, celebrity chef Paula Deen defended herself against what she calls “hurtful lies” from “people I’ve never heard of” in an interview Wednesday morning with Matt Lauer on “Today.”
“If there’s anyone out there that has not said something that they wish they could take back, please pick up that stone and throw it so hard that it kills me,” she said, facing directly into the camera. “I want to meet you.”
As Deen called out her detractors, Lauer focused his questions on business. Last week, Food Network opted not to renew her contract, and Smithfield Foods announced Monday it had dropped Deen as a spokeswoman. Deen told Lauer she was lucky that all but two of her partners were standing by her.
Ummm, not so fast.
Later in the day, Walmart issued this statement:
“We are ending our relationship with Paula Deen Enterprises and we will not place new orders beyond those already committed.
“We will work with suppliers to address existing inventories and agreements.”
And The Wrap reported:
“Caesars Entertainment, which operates Paula Deen-themed restaurants in four of its properties, including Harrah’s Casino locations, has ended its relationship with the former Food Network star. In a statement, Caesars said that it ‘reached a mutual agreement with Paula Deen Enterprises’ not to renew the business relationship. Caesars will re-brand the restaurants in the coming months.”
OK, so, make that all but four.
In the “Today” interview, Deen said she doesn’t want her supporters to boycott Food Network.
The decisions to cut ties with Deen have come in the wake of a lawsuit from a former Deen employee. The suit alleges that the chef had used racial slurs and described a Southern plantation wedding in which black waiters would dance as in the “Shirley Temple days.” In a deposition, Deen admitted that she had used the N-word in the past, though not in the contexts the suit alleged.
“The day I used that word, it was a world ago,” Deen told Lauer. “It was 30 years ago. I had had a gun put to my head.” Deen was referring to an incident in which someone she had given a loan robbed a bank where she was working.
When asked straight out whether she is a racist, Deen said she is not. She added that because she was raised not to lie, she admitted using the N-word.
When Lauer asked Deen whether she thinks black people find the N-word offensive, Deen responded, “I don’t know.” She’s distressed by how young employees of hers talk to one another, she said. “These young people are going to have to take control and start showing respect for each other,” she said.
How would you rate Deen’s “Today” show appearance? Was it effective, or did she dig the hole deeper?