(NEW YORK) — After being a no-show for an interview with Today‘s Matt Lauer last week, disgraced celebrity chef Paula Deen finally sat down with the NBC anchor Wednesday morning to discuss the controversy sparked by her admission that she’s used the N-word in the past.
“The main reason I am here today, Matt, is it’s important to me that I tell you and everyone out there what I believe and how I live my life,” Deen, 66, said. “…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.”
In the tense 13-minute interview, Deen clarified her usage of the n-word, denying that she ever used it outside of an instance when she was robbed by an employee. “It was 30 years ago. I had had a gun put to my head, a shaking gun because the man that had the gun to my head was my customer at the main office,” she explained.
The controversy was sparked by a lawsuit filed by a former employee at Deen’s Savannah, GA, restaurants, who claims racial and sexual harassment by Deen and her brother, Bubba Hier, while working for them. Deen’s attorney denies the claims, but in a suit-related deposition last month, Deen responded “I’m sure I have” when asked if she’d also used the n-word since being robbed, adding, “but it’s been a very long time.”
After her admission and the subsequent backlash caused by it, Deen was fired by both The Food Network and by Smithfield, a food company specializing in pork products for which Deen was a spokesperson. QVC and Random House, the latter of which is set to publish Deen’s book Paula Deen’s New Testament: 250 Favorite Recipes, All Lightened Up, have both said they are monitoring the situation to determine whether to continue their affiliation with her.
When asked by Lauer if she would have fired herself, Deen replied “knowing me, no.“
“I‘m very lucky in this aspect, Matt. I’m so fortunate that so many of my partners that know who I am have decided to stand by me. QVC has not dropped me,” she said.
“They say they’re weighing their options,” Lauer reminded her.
Deen said the controversy has deeply affected her friends and family. “I‘ve had to hold friends in my arms while they sobbed because they know what’s being said about me is not true. And I’m having to comfort them and tell them it’s going to be all right,” she added.
According to People magazine, the controversy surrounding Deen will not affect her son Jamie’s Food Network show, Home for Dinner, or her son Bobby’s Cooking Channel program, Not My Mama’s Meals.
Deen ended the interview with a warning to her critics: “And like I said, if you never committed a sin, please pick up that rock. Pick up that boulder and hit me as hard as you can.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Lisa Respers France, CNN
Rachel Sande, EastIdahoNews.com
Sandra Gonzalez, CNN