After begging off from a planned appearance last week due to exhaustion — an excuse Matt Lauer and Al Roker accepted with a few suppressed eye-rolls — Paula Deen finally appeared on Today this morning, giving an emotional interview in which she vehemently denied being a racist.
Deen has been under fire since she admitted to using racial slurs in a deposition filed June 17; in light of her testimony, the celebrity chef has been dropped by the Food Network and Smithfield Foods. Her full, 13-minute interview with Lauer is below:
Deen appeared somewhat shell-shocked throughout the chat, though she seemed to have regained her composure since releasing a pair of awkward apology videos last Friday.
And while Lauer tried to kick the interview off by asking Deen whether she thinks her business partners have been treating her fairly, Deen was determined to say her piece regardless of his questions: “Before we even get into that, the main reason I am here today, Matt, is it’s important to me that I tell you and everyone out there how– 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. No matter who you choose to go to bed at night with, no matter what church you go to pray, I believe that everyone should be treated equal,” she said. “And that’s the way I was raised and that’s the way I live my life.”
When pressed, Deen did eventually answer Lauer’s first inquiry: “Would I have fired me? Knowing me? No,” she said. “I’m so fortunate that so many of my partners that knew who I am have decided to stand by me. QVC has not dropped me,” she continued — neglecting to mention that the home shopping channel has announced that it’s “reviewing [its] business relationship” with her, though Lauer did bring up that point.
While Deen implied in the deposition that she had used the n-word more than once — though she couldn’t recall specifics — she told Lauer that she had uttered the slur just once “in all my 66 years on earth”: when she was held at gunpoint by a black man 30 years ago. Otherwise, she said, she finds use of the word “distressing” — especially when she hears it used by the “young people” who work in her restaurants’ kitchens. “It’s very distressing for me,” she said. “I think for this problem to be worked on, that these young people are gonna have to take control and start showing respect for each other and not throwing that word at each other. That — it makes my skin crawl.”
Another thing that makes Deen’s skin crawl: “thieves and liars,” the only group she says she’s prejudiced against. When asked whether she wishes she had “fudged the truth” in her deposition, Deen responded with a story about how her family values honesty. “I know how I treat people,” she continued. “I know my love for people. And I’m not gonna sit here and tell everything that I have done for — people of color… Somebody else can tell that.”
“If there’s anyone 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,” Deen added in conclusion. “I is what I is, and I’m not changing.”