An emotionally distraught Paula Deen met with Matt Lauer this morning on the Today Show after abruptly canceling an appearance last Friday. Deen was overwhelmed and in a state of shock last week when she canceled her interview with Lauer at the Today Show. During the interview, Deen explained that she was raised in a humble home where she was taught to respect others.
“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,” she told Lauer. “I believe that every creature on this earth — every one of God’s creatures — was created equal. That’s the way I was raised and that’s the way I live my life.”
Lauer pressed Deen on her sworn admission to using the N-word during her May 17 deposition. Deen defended herself. She said, “It’s just not a part of who we are,” when Lauer asked whether she had any doubt in her mind that the N-word is offensive to African Americans. ”It’s very distressing for me,” she told Lauer, “I think 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 throw that word at each other. It makes my skin crawl.”
Deen became emotionally distraught during the 13-minute interview, and broke down while she spoke of her young grandson. “I know how I treat people, and I know my love for people,” she insisted. Lauer asked Deen if “given the same circumstances, would you have fired you?” She paused and then responded “No.” He also asked her if she was a racist, which she also said no. “The day I used that word was a world ago — I had a gun put to my head.”
Deen insisted she’s not racist and that there have been “some very hurtful lies said about me.” She spoke fondly of her supporters. “So many of my partners have chosen to stand by me. I am so very thankful for the partners that I have that believe in me,” she said. “I think we can never underestimate the power of those voices [of supporters],” she told Lauer. “These people who have met me and know me and love me, are as angry as the people that are reading these stories that are lies. These people who are reading these stories who don’t know me, don’t know that these are lies. I have never hurt anybody on purpose and I never would.”
Lauer persisted to ask Deen repeatedly whether she lacked racial tolerance. “There isn’t a side of you that isn’t tolerant?”
To which Deen replied, “What you see is what you get. I’m heartbroken. I’ve had to hold friends in my arms while they sobbed because they know what’s being said about me isn’t true. I’ve cooked for them and told them it’s going to be alright. I’ve had wonderful support from Reverend Jackson – wonderful support from people. If there’s anyone out there that has never said something that they wish they could take back, please pick up that stone and throw it so hard at my head that it kills me,” she said. “Please. I want to meet you.”
At the end of the interview, Deen makes reference to Lisa Jackson, the former General Manager at Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House in Savannah, Georgia from 2005 – 2010, the restaurant in which Paula Deen Enterprises holds a 50% stake with her Deen’s brother, Bubba Hiers. “There’s someone evil out there that saw what I had worked for, and they wanted it.”
According to fans of the We Support Paula Deen Facebook page, Jackson is a three-time divorced, single mother who never finished the 9th grade. She had previously thanked and praised Deen and Hiers in a letter to Deen in 2010, two months prior to abruptly resigning from Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House.
“When I started working for Bubba,” Jackson wrote, “he gave me an opportunity that allowed me, over time, a freedom I have never experienced. He allowed me, for once in my life to take care of myself and for once, have faith in myself as a person and as a woman to know that I could do it on my own; y’all were my Aunt Peggy… I have been given opportunities that I never thought possible, all because of you and Bubba.”
Shortly after abandoning her position as General Manager, she and her attorney sent a letter, demanding payment to stay quiet about claims of sexual harassment.
“… my client has refrained from publicly disussing her claims. Your client (Deen) can still gain substantial value from settlement before we file the Complaint. We are willing to sign a settlement agreement that provides for substantial mutuality of commitment, including a confidentiality provision. Settlement can occur if your clients pay my client (Jackson) $1.25 million dollars.”
During her interview with Lauer, Deen said, “There’s a couple of kinds of people that I don’t like, that I am prejudiced against, Matt – and that’s thieves and liars.”
Food Network and The Smithfield Co., announced last week that they would end their relationships with Deen. Caesars Entertainment Corporation announced that it had reached an agreement not to continue a business relationship with Deen’s company, Paula Deen Enterprises. Caesars operates Paula Deen-themed restaurants at four of its properties, which it said it intends to rebrand.
49-year-old John Schmitt, lead night auditor for a major hotel chain in Indianapolis, and long-time Paula Deen fan told Stitches ‘n Dishes, “I think [Deen] had some great breaks and she’s the same person she was when she was selling sandwiches.”
Schmitt is the founder of the We Support Paula Deen Facebook page which has amassed over 400,000 supporters since Friday, averaging over 100,000 new supporters per day.
“And now i guess i’m doing some planning,” he told Stitches ‘n Dishes. “The last Christmas gift my mother gave to me before she died was a set of Paula Deen cookware. There’s a nostalgia for me. Somebody needs to step up and say something.”
The Royal Caribbean cruise line is moving full steam ahead with its with the embattled chef in the wake of her racism scandal. Deen’s annual “Paula Deen Cruise” on board the Royal Caribbean’s “Mariner of the Seas” has been flooded with so many booking requests that the cruise is adding an extra departure in 2014.
“Due to so many requests from Paula’s fans in the past we are actually planning two cruises for 2014 and look forward to both,” a rep for the cruise told FOX411′s Pop Tarts column. “It’s always an amazing time with Paula, her family and fans. If she goes – we go.”
And the cruise line is not alone. Deen’s full line up of appearances includes the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show in Houston and Dallas in September, and in Washington, DC in November. She remains a key personality on the website with tickets to see her specifically ranging from $95 to $500.
“Paula Deen has been a friend of The Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show for many years. She has apologized and we are taking her apology at her word and moving forward accordingly,” the show’s representative said. “The Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show does not condone or believe in the use of derogatory slurs by anyone. This is a nation of forgiveness and second chances. In that spirit we intend to go forward with the MetroCooking Shows in Houston, Dallas and Washington, DC as planned with Paula as a presenter.”
Another company standing by Deen is the Vicroza Brand, who brought Deen onboard last year to hawk their diabetes drug Novo Nordisk.
“We recognize the seriousness of these allegations and will follow legal proceedings closely, staying in contact with her. As a company committed to improving the lives of people with diabetes, Novo Nordisk engaged Deen as a spokesperson because of her commitment to increasing awareness about diabetes to millions of people in this country,” the rep told FOX411.
Orders for “Paula Deen’s New Testament: 250 Favorite Recipes, All Lightened Up” surged on Amazon by nearly 1,300% in the last 24 hours. The cookbook was ranked 115th on Tuesday, compared to a ranking of 1,592nd on Monday
QVC, Wal-Mart, JC Penney, Target, Random House, Sears, and Hoffman Media, publisher of Deen’s magazine, “Cooking with Paula Deen” have not canceled agreements.
Schmitt feels that Deen has “been somebody to look up to for years.”
“I think what’s motivating this is jealousy and greed. To me, Paula is somebody to look up to. She’s a rag to riches story. The media loves to build somebody up then looks for something to take it away. To be very honest, Lisa Jackson had this idea – I can get get money from Paula Deen. I think it was very well thought out. She tried to extort the money – she had a choice to go through with this. I think she saw a way to take the money and not have to worry about things,” he said during an interview with Stitches ‘n Dishes.
Schmitt himself hopes to follow in Deen’s footsteps one day, and open a pub of his own. Immediately following Deen’s interview on the Today show this morning, Schmitt called to Paula Deen fans to ban together in a demonstration of solidarity and support.
His announcement begins, “You have been waiting for it… Here it is the plan to show our support for Paula though actions as well as words.”
Beginning on Friday June 28th, Paula Deen supporters will send a clean empty butter wrapper to Food Network, 75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011-7006, Scripps Networks, Po Box 51850, Knoxville, TN 37950, and Gary W. Loveman, CEO & President, Caesars Entertainment Corp., One Caesars Palace Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89109. Schmitt’s call to action asks supporters to include with it a note of support for Paula.
Schmitt decided to take action after he recalled similar acts of solidarity in the past. “I remember a few years ago after a show was canceled, people started sending peanuts to a network then I thought everyone should send an empty butter wrapper,” he said.
He asks fans to join in support by following the Facebook and Twitter pages. Supporters are also encouraged to use the #WeWantButter hash tag in their social media posts, and to send in photos of their empty butter wrappers on Facebook and Twitter.
Springer Mountain Farms, which grows 100% natural chickens made this statement on its Facebook page shortly after Deen’s interview with Matt Lauer on the Today Show.
“We support Paula Deen. We have worked closely with her for the last two years and know her to be a compassionate, caring person. We have seen her with all types of people and have never seen any sign of prejudice. We truly believe her when she says she is sorry for any hurt feeling she has caused. We are very pleased with the interview Paula Deen gave this morning offering her apologies and reaffirming her personal commitment to equality and fairness for all. As an organization we believe that she and her team are on the right track and we look forward to continuing to work together.”
Deen was not available for comments.
Watch the segment below.