Paula Deen finally sat down on Wednesday for a much anticipated Today interview, after abruptly backing out of a scheduled appearance last week. The result: A lot of tears, one racist punchline, and way too many emotions for 7:30 a.m.
While the interview ran a staggering 13 minutes, 246 years in Today Show airtime, Lauer focused primarily on Deen's past use of racial slurs and did not press her to defend her desire to throw an antebellum South themed event staffed by black men dressed like slaves. He repeatedly prodded her about the business end of things, at one point asking whether the chef agreed to come on the show merely to salvage endorsement deals, but Deen never rose to the bait. ("Let me say this before we even get into that. The main reason I am here today, Matt, is it's important to me to tell you and everyone out there what I believe...")
Deen wavered from her deposition when she told Lauer she had only used the n-word once "in all of my 66 years on earth," after she was robbed at gunpoint. (While telling the story, she grabbed and held Lauer's leg for several beats while explaining that the robbery happened after she had "gone out on a limb" for the man who later robbed her "and gotten him a loan.") She'd previously said under oath that she was "sure" she'd used it a few times since then.
Asked whether she has "any doubt" that African Americans are offended by the n-word, Deen responded that she didn't know, apparently because she's heard black people use it when speaking to one another:
"I don't know, Matt, I have asked myself that so many times. It's very distressing for me to go into my kitchens and hear what people are calling each other….I think that for this problem to be worked on that these young people are going to have to take control and start showing respect for each other and not throw that word at each other. It makes my skin crawl."
The most memorable part of the interview was, without a doubt, the disturbing emotional climax in which Deen, choking back tears, addressed the camera and invited those without sin to "pick up that stone and throw it so hard at my head that it kills me." She concluded the brief rave, unbelievably, with the punchline of a racist joke.
"If there's anyone out there that has never said something that they wished 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 is what I is and I'm not changing."
Later, when Matt attempted to end the interview and throw the video to commercial, Deen continued talking, visiting once more the death-by-rock motif.
"If you've never sinned … pick up that rock, pick up that boulder and hit me as hard as you can."
And that's pretty much how the creepy, weepy sit-down wrapped up. The next segment was a fun interview on the plaza with Steve Carrell for Despicable Me 2.
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