Paula Deen Makes Tearful Appearance On 'Today' Show
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And I'm Audie Cornish.
Southern cooking star Paula Deen made a high-profile television appearance today. The conversation, with "The Today Show" on NBC, was Deen's first public interview since controversy erupted over her admission that she has used a racial slur. That admission came in a deposition, in connection with a lawsuit filed over treatment of employees at one of Deen's restaurants. Big companies are dropping their associations with Deen - the Food Network, Smithfield Foods, Caesar's Entertainment and Wal-Mart.
NPR's Debbie Elliott has been following the saga. Hey there, Debbie.
DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: Hi, Audie.
CORNISH: So Paula Deen was pretty shaken up, very emotional during her interview with Matt Lauer this morning. What did she have to say?
ELLIOTT: Well, first of all, she said she was not and that she never intended to hurt anyone. But she did admit to using an offensive racial epithet, a word in reference to blacks one time 30 years ago. But she said that is not a part of what we are. And then she went on to sort of explain that she feels like she's being unfairly targeted here, the way that people have reacted to this. Here's a little section of the interview.
(SOUNDBITE OF "TODAY" SHOW)
PAULA DEEN: 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.
CORNISH: Debbie, let's talk a little bit about the background here. There was a discrimination lawsuit filed by a white employee of one of Deen's restaurants, Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House in Savannah. And Paula Deen apologized before this but it seems like the story just stays with us.
ELLIOTT: Yes, the deposition in that lawsuit became public last week and that's when the controversy began. And then, on Friday, Deen released a couple of video apologies. But since then the story has been growing as more companies are now seeking to distance themselves from her.
CORNISH: Right, between the television program, cookbooks, restaurants, product endorsements, I mean, she's got a business empire. And with these major partners dropping her, what does that mean for Paula Deen's future?
ELLIOTT: Well, her brand is certainly damaged. And now news today that the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, is stepping away is certainly a major blow. But others are sticking with her. Everybody hasn't distanced themselves from her.
I spoke today with Denise Medved, who is the founder and CEO of Metro Cooking and Entertaining Show. They do shows in D.C., Houston, elsewhere. And she says while the company doesn't condone derogatory slurs, they accept her apology and that they are still going to include her in the fall lineup because she is a huge draw.
CORNISH: That's NPR's Debbie Elliott. Debbie, thank you so much.
Thank you, Audie.