Paula Deen's sons denied Tuesday that their mother is a racist, and one said the claims against her amount to "extortion" and "character assassination."
Bobby and Jamie Deen, who own a Savannah, Ga., restaurant with their mother, appeared on CNN's "New Day" Tuesday, the day before she is to appear on NBC's "Today" after canceling a planned appearance Friday. On the same day, the Food Network dropped her.
Deen testified in a May 17 deposition that she has used the N-word in the past and hoped in 2007 to plan a "plantation"-style wedding for her brother, with whom she owns another restaurant. A former employee claims in a lawsuit that he subjected her to sexist, racist and violent behavior, and accused Deen of doing nothing to stop it. Deen was forced to testify in the case.
"Our mother was under oath asked in a deposition to pour over her entire life and to admit whether or not she had ever heard or used this word and it broke her heart to have to answer truthfully and say, yes that she had ," Bobby Deen said on CNN. "But the important thing here is for people to know that that is not her heart…."
"We were raised in a family with love and of faith and a house where God lived," he continued. "And neither one of our parents ever taught us to be bigoted towards any other person for any reason and this is so saddening to me because our mother is one of the most compassionate, good-hearted, empathetic people that you'd ever meet. And these accusations are very hurtful to her and it's very sad. And frankly, I'm disgusted by the entire thing because it began as extortion and it has become character assassination."
Jamie Deen, meanwhile, said on of his heroes growing up was African-American baseball player Hank Aaron. He said his parents bought him Hank Aaron pajamas and told him about Aaron's struggle.
"They told me that he's a man of character, and the challenges that he overcame because of his color was unacceptable," Jamie Deen said. "This is a lesson that my mom and dad taught me when I was 7 years old, and it's a lesson that I've carried throughout my life of inclusion and to treat everyone fairly and by their character and by their own merit. Under no circumstances should you ever judge anybody for any other reason."
Watch the interview: