What a difference a few lost business deals make — at least that's what Matt Lauer implied during his sit-down with Paula Deen on the "Today" show Wednesday morning.
Clad in baby pink and sporting her signature "doll eyes" (no, that's not a technical term), a teary Paula faced off with the oft-prickly host as she insisted, over and over and in varying terms, that she is a God-fearing woman who — while imperfect — is still a victim who deserves the public's forgiveness.
As she broke down in tears and pointed fingers at an "evil" opportunist, she even went so far as to urge anyone who has "ever said something that they wish they could take back" to just go ahead and throw stones at her.
Lauer, who had been obviously irritated with the celebrity chef when last week, started the sit-down by pointing out that the difference between then (when Deen bailed) and now (when she showed up ready to play ball) was financial, seeing as she'd already lost her show on the Food Network and her endorsement deals were on the line.
Deen, however, was quick to dismiss his accusation.
"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. I believe that every creature in this earth — every one of God's creatures — was created equal, no matter who you chose to go 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."
Lauer didn't seem swayed, however, citing a quote that "millions of dollars are at stake" for the shunned chef during this interview. Part of us can't help but think that the host just couldn't resist reminding Deen who was in charge here. Still, he had a point.
Throughout the interview, Deen's strategy seemed to be to focus on the emotional side of the story: her hurt feelings, her family, her friends. Lauer, though, wanted answers.
"Would you have fired you?" he asked.
A semi-stunned Deen paused before answering, "Knowing me? No."
Lauer moved on ... sort of. "Are you a racist?" he quipped.
"No. No, I am not." She continued on to paint of picture of her upbringing, claiming that her father would tolerate bad behavior like "breaking curfew" and "bad grades," but put his foot down when it came to attitude.
"He told me, 'Girl, if I ever find out that you have behaved in a way that you think you are better than others or have been unkind, your butt is mine,'" she recalled.
Lauer then moved into the meat of the questioning, asking about her admitted use of the N-word.
"It was 30 years ago," Deen explained. "I had had a gun put to my head."
A few minutes later, Deen's tears started flowing.
"Matt, I’ll tell you about a conversation I had with my 7-year-old grandson the other day. He had spent the night with me and I had allowed him to stay up later than his bedtime. I told him he got me in trouble when he told his parents I let him stay up late. He looked up at me and said, 'I don’t tell lies.' That’s how I raised my children. That’s how I was raised. That’s how my grandchildren are being raised. I know how I treat people. I know my love for people. I'm not going to sit here and tell everything I’ve done for people of color. I’m not going to do it. Somebody else can do that."
But the real kicker came at the end.
As tears rolled down her rosy cheeks, Deen pleaded, "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. I want to meet you. I is what I is and I'm not changing. There's someone evil out there that saw what I had worked for, and they wanted it."
And there you have it folks.
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