After canceling a scheduled appearance last week, Paula Deen finally appeared on the Today show this morning to speak with Matt Lauer—her first interview in the wake of her racism scandal that was sparked after a deposition which included her nonchalantly using racial slurs and making anti-Semitic jokes (in addition to detailing her "dream" Southern plantation wedding that would include black waiters dressed as slaves serving guests) made its way onto the web.
Frequent teasers for the segment peppered the first half-hour of Today, mostly featuring shots of Deen waiting backstage looking like she was summoning every ounce of energy she had to look somber about the whole situation. The interview finally began at 7:30 on the dot, and started off with a previously filmed segment that included a rundown of the scandal and some of the things Deen said in the deposition, verbatim.
As the interview finally begins, Lauer brings up the canceled interview on Friday, and Deen quickly jumps in to explain that she dropped out of the appearance because was exhausted by all the "hurtful lies said about me." That word will come up a lot—'lies.' Deen never clarifies if she means the word-for-word transcript of everything she said in that deposition under oath, but it's clear that she's trying to attempt to claim some of the quotes have been taken out of context.
Lauer attempts to steer the conversation away towards her lost Food Network and rocky QVC deal, but Deen cuts in again, defenses up: "Let me say this, before we even get into that, the main reason I am here today Matt, it's important to me that I tell you and everybody out there what I believe...I believe every one of God's creatures was created equal, no matter who you choose to go to bed at night with, [and] no matter what church your pray in...I'm so distressed that people who I've never met are suddenly experts in who I am. And their words are being given weight." Possibly because it's a word-for-word transcript, but OK.
Lauer, still tries to keep the conversation about her lost contracts, particularly with the Food Network. "Given the circumstances would you have fired you?" Deen says no: "Knowing who I am, no I would not have." She follows that up with a long-winded statement about how 'thankful' she is for the partners who "believe" in her.
This is where things get interesting: Lauer then proceeds to ask Deen, point blank, "Are you a racist?"
Deen responds quickly. "No, I'm not."
"You don't feel you have racist tendencies?" Lauer presses. He has a copy of the deposition transcript in his hand.
Deen explains that her father would allegedly get angry if she ever acted like she was better than somebody else.
Lauer brings up the statements in the deposition, specifically her use of the n-word multiple times. "The day I used that word, it was 30 years ago, I had had a gun put to my head," Deen explains, recounting the time she was robbed at gunpoint. She then proceeds to claim she never used the n-word in any other situation than the time she was robbed, even though the transcript from the deposition suggests otherwise.
At this point, the interview is mostly Deen stumbling over her words. Lauer doesn't let up, though, clearly not believing anything Deen is saying.
Lauer asks if Deen believes that black people are offended by the n-word, then. Deen replies, spinning the question back to being about herself: "It's distressing to go into my kitchens and see what these young people are calling each other...it's very distressing for me,"—she repeats that it's 'distressing' about for times before continuing—"these young people are gonna have to take control and start showing respect for each other and not throwing that word at each other, it makes my skin crawl."
Deen then begins to cry. "I know how I treat people, I know my love for people, and I'm not going to sit here and tell everything I've done for people of color. Someone else can do that, I'm not going to do that...these people who have met me, and know me, and love me, they are as angry as the people reading these stories that are lies." She sobs harder. "I have apologized, I would never, and I can truthfully say in my life, I have never with any intention hurt anybody on purpose, and I never would."
Lauer basically asks if she Deen another personality we don't see on television. Deen chuckles a little through her tears: "What you see is what you get. I'm not an actress." She then says that she's had to hold friends in their arms while they sobbed because of the untrue things being said about her, and adds she's had 'support' from Reverend Jesse Jackson and others (no, Glenn Beck's name did not come up).
She then turns to camera, crying even harder, seemingly forcing the tears to multiply. Things get more dramatic than the end of a bad Lifetime movie: "If there is anyone out there who has never said something they don't mean, 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 can't change that. There is someone evil out there that saw what I have, and wanted it."
Lauer tries to end the interview, but Deen goes on about the rock again and continues to sob. Cut to commercial.
UPDATED: The video of the segment has now been made available. You can check it out above.