After Paula Deen admitted that she once used a racial slur, the celebrity chef was dropped by the Food Network and lost a major endorsement deal, costing her millions. Today, she made a TV appearance to tell her side of the story, and tearfully said that the situation has left her "heartbroken."
In a 13-minute interview on the "Today Show," Deen, 66, repeatedly stated that she is not a racist. "I believe that every creature on this earth, every one of God's creatures, was created equal," she said. "That's the way I was raised and that's the way I live my life."
She added: "'If you've never committed a sin, please pick up that rock and pick up that boulder and hit me as hard as you can."
Deen came under fire after it was revealed in a deposition that she once used a racial slur. The former Food Network star and her brother are involved in a lawsuit from a former restaurant manager who is alleging racial and sexual discrimination.
In today's interview, Deen admitted that she did use a racial epithet once, but only under duress: Deen was robbed at gunpoint decades ago by a man to whom she once issued a loan.
"The day I used that word, it was a world ago," she said, adding that she's never used it again. "As a child, I was raised in a home that my father tolerated bad grades. He would tolerate maybe breaking a curfew but he told me he said, 'Girl, if I ever find out that you have behaved in a way where you think you're better than others or have been unkind, your butt is gonna be mine.'"
And while Deen said that she wouldn't have fired herself had she been in the shoes of the Food Network and Smithfield ham, who severed ties with her, she also expressed gratitude to supporters, including Rev. Jesse Jackson and QVC, with whom she has a business deal. She said that she does not regret telling the truth when asked whether she'd ever used a slur.
"There's a couple of kinds of people that I don't like that I am prejudiced against and that's thieves and liars," she said, breaking down in tears. "I know how I treat people. I know my love for people."
After Matt Lauer tried to end the interview, a sobbing Deen continued to express her heartbreak.
"I is what I is and I'm not changing," she said. "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."
"It means a lot to me and it feels so strange to come to this wonderful happy place where I've always come so happy and I have these people believe these horrible, horrible lies," she added.