In Paula Deen’s first interview since she admitted to using racial epithets, the celebrity chef told Matt Lauer on TODAY that she’s not a racist, questioned the offensiveness of the “N-word,” and said that her firing from the Food Network was not the right decision.
Simply asked by Lauer if she is a racist, Deen replied “No,” adding, “I believe that … every one of God’s creatures was created equal. I believe that everyone should be treated equal, that’s the way I was raised and that’s the way I live my life.”
Deen is also facing her release from several contracts, most notably the one she had with the Food Network. Lauer asked her if she thought that her firing was the right decision. She replied:
“Would I have fired me? Knowing me? No. I am so very thankful for the partners I have who believe in me.”
Lauer also asked Deen, point blank, if she knows that the “N-word” is offensive to black people. He asked her this because, in the legal deposition she’s in hot water over, she said that she didn’t know what was offensive to minority groups. To Lauer, she replied:
“I don’t know, I have asked myself that so many times. It’s very distressing for me to go into my kitchens and hear what these young people are calling each other … it’s very distressing for me. 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.”
She also said that she only ever used the “N-word” once: In 1986 after being held at gunpoint by a black man.
“The day I used that word it was a world ago — it was 30 years ago — I had had a gun put to my head,” said Deen.
She said it was the only time “in my 66 years on Earth had I ever used it.”
Deen’s professional career has taken a number of jabs in the week since it was revealed that she had used the “N-word” and thought about throwing a “plantation-style” wedding, things revealed during a May 17 legal deposition.
Interestingly, she agreed to appear with Lauer on Friday but bailed at the last minute, causing Lauer to publicly criticize her. You can check out the video of their long-awaited interview below: