Paula Deen Cancels "Today" Interview Amid N-Word Controversy

Deen said to have been "exhausted."

View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print

    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    AP
    Celebrity chef Paula Deen cancelled a "Today" show appearance where she was scheduled to clarify her use of the N-word, following an admission last month in a video deposition as part of a $1.2 million lawsuit filed by a former employee.

    Paula Deen failed to show for an interview on NBC’s “Today” show Friday in the wake of recent revelations that she has used the N-word in the past.

    “Today” show host Matt Lauer said the Food Network cooking star was scheduled to appear on the morning show to address the controversy stemming from a sexual harassment lawsuit and flew in to New York Thursday night.

    "We started hearing from her people that she is exhausted," Lauer said. "Her publicity person simply said they believe she is in the hotel but she has not confirmed anything other than she is not here this morning."

    Lauer said the two spoke Thursday afternoon in preparation for the appearance and that she agreed to do the interview without any restrictions.

    “I don’t know how to be anything but honest,” Lauer said she told him.

    The 66-year-old comfort food queen and Savannah, Ga., restaurant owner did not call Friday to explain why she bailed, Lauer said.

    Deen Tweeted Friday afternoon that she will post "a video statement shortly."

    Deen’s use of racial comments were made public during a deposition as part of a $1.2 million lawsuit filed by Lisa Jackson, a former manager of Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House in Savannah. Deen and her brother Bubba Hiers own the restaurant.

    Jackson claimed she was sexually harassed by Hiers and that Deen used the N-word around her.

    According to a transcript of the video deposition, an attorney for Jackson asked Deen, the author of 14 cook books, if she has ever used the N-word.

    "Yes, of course," Deen replied, though she added: "It's been a very long time."

    Deen said she may have also used the racial slur when recalling conversations between black employees at her restaurants, but she couldn’t give specifics, The Associated Press reported.

    "But that's just not a word that we use as time has gone on," Deen said, according to the suit. "Things have changed since the '60s in the South. And my children and my brother object to that word being used in any cruel or mean behavior. As well as I do."

    During the deposition, Deen also talked about possibly hiring black employees to dress identically for her brother’s 2007 wedding. She said she got the idea from a restaurant she went to where the waiters were all "middle-aged black men, and they had on beautiful black jackets with a black bow tie...” E! News reported.

    At the same time Deen stressed that, "Bubba and I, neither one of us, care what the color of your skin is. It's what's in your heart and in your head that matters to us."

    Paula Deen's business organization, Paula Enterprises, released a statement to People magazine playing down the controversy.

    "Ms. Deen recounted having used a racial epithet in the past, speaking largely about a time in American history which was quite different than today," the statement said. "[Paula] was born 60 years ago when America's South had schools that were segregated, different bathrooms, different restaurants and Americans rode in different parts of the bus. This is not today."

    This isn’t the first time the queen of Southern comfort foods got in trouble. In 2012, she said that for three years, she hid her Type 2 diabetes while continuing to cook high-calorie meals that were bad for people who have the disease.

    The self-proclaimed butter lover recently launched her own line of flavored "finishing butter" which she said should be used in "moderation" toward the end of cooking a meal.

    In addition to her butter, which comes in flavors like citrus zest, lemon dill and garden herb, Deen is also releasing all-natural chips and sugar-free chocolates, part of her healthier line of food, which comes after her 30-pound weight loss last year.