Paula Deen on Today: "I Is What I Is"
Will Today change Deen's career trajectory?
It seems that everyone but Paula Deen has weighed in on the scandal that followed the celebrity chef's admission in a legal deposition that she used the N-word. Both Food Network and Smithfield have severed ties with her.
Deen's statements have polarized both the culinary community and the world. Andrew Zimmern, who has a show on Scripps-owned Travel Channel (Scripps also owns Food Network) said, "There is no room in our world for discrimination of any kind, let alone the malicious and insensitive behavior we have heard stories about the last few days." In a New York Times op-ed piece, Frank Bruni said, "Paula Deen is where sass meets crass, where the homespun and folksy curdle into something with a sour aftertaste."
There are also Deen supporters, such as the "We Support Paula Deen" Facebook page that has more than 400,000 followers. Even the Rev. Al Sharpton seemed to come to her defense. Confronted by TMZ, Sharpton said, "A lot of us in the past have said things that we regretted saying years ago."
This morning, Deen appeared on the Today show to speak with Matt Lauer about everything that went down. Deen was supposed to appear on the morning news program last week but was a no-show.
In the 13-minute segment that aired around 7:30 a.m., Lauer reminded Deen of the fact that Food Network and Smithfield dropped her and that QVC is "weighing their options." Then he asked if she thinks she has been treated fairly. Before she answered any business questions, Deen made a statement. "I believe that every creature on this Earth, every one of God's creatures, was created equal. No matter who you go to bed with, no matter which church you go to pray, I believe that everyone should be treated equal. And that's the way I was raised, and that's the way I live my life."
Lauer then reminded Deen there are "millions of dollars at stake" and asked if she was let go to "stop the financial bleeding."
Deen said that "people that I never heard of are all of a sudden experts on who I am" and that those "words have been given weight."
Lauer asked Deen, as a businessperson, whether she would have fired herself. "Knowing me? No."
The interview turned emotional when Lauer bluntly asked, "Are you a racist? How does someone use the N-word and not be considered a racist?"
Deen replied she used the racial slur only once, 30 years ago, after a robbery attempt. "[The attorneys] asked me in all of my 66 years on Earth if I used it."
Lauer concluded by asking the celebrity chef if she thinks the fans who are standing by her side are the key to her career salvation. "As angry as the people are that are reading stories that are lies... On that same coin, the people who know me are just as angry."
Deen's final words recalled the New Testament.
"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. I is what I is, and I'm not changing. There's someone evil out there that saw what I had worked for, and they wanted it."
Watch the full segment here: