Paula Deen on 'TODAY': I want people to know who I am

7:03 PM, Jun 26, 2013   |    comments
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NEW YORK -- Paula Deen sat down with "TODAY" host Matt Lauer for a very candid interview Wednesday morning.

The 66-year-old celebrity chef was originally scheduled to appear on the show last Friday but never showed up, blaming distress and exhaustion.

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"It's hard for me to even find the word, Matt, that I was feeling," Deen said Wednesday. "I was just overwhelmed. I was in a state of shock."

"There's been some very, very hurtful lies said about me," she added. "I am here today because I want people to know who I am."

A former employee of Deen's Savannah restaurant, Uncle Bubba's Oyster House, is suing the chef and her brother, claiming they used racial slurs and talked about planning a wedding with a slavery theme. During a deposition, Deen admitted to using the N-word in the past.

On "TODAY," she said she is not a racist.

"I believe that every creature on this earth, every one of God's creatures, was created equal," she told Lauer. "No matter who you choose to go to bed at night with, no matter what 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."

She added that she only used the N-word once, 30 years ago, when a suspect held a gun to her head during a bank robbery.

"It's just not a part of who we are," she said of using racial slurs.

Lauer held nothing back in Wednesday's interview, mentioning that the Food Network and Smithfield Foods ended their relationships with Deen. He asked her if she would have done the same and fired herself.

"No," Deen said. "I'm so fortunate that so many of my partners that know who I am have decided to stand by me."

Deen added it is "distressing" to hear young people calling each other offensive names.

"I think that, for this problem to be worked on, these young people are gonna have to take control and start showing respect for each other and not throwing that word at each other," she said. "It makes my skin crawl."

She admitted to being prejudiced against certain people -- "thieves and liars" -- and said that she raised her children to be honest.

Deen became emotional as she said, "I know how I treat people. I know my love for people. And I'm not going to sit here and tell everything that I have done for people of color."

She showed her gratitude for the fans who have stood by her. "These people who have met me and know me and love me -- they're as angry as the people are that are reading these stories that are lies," she said. "I've had to hold friends in my arms while they've sobbed because they know what's being said about me is not true."

"I have never, with any intention, hurt anybody on purpose, and I never would," Deen said.

She turned to the camera and added, "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."

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