Paula Deen on "Today" show: "I is what I is and I'm not changing"

The ex-Food Network star defended her character, saying, "I am here today because I want people to know who I am"

Published June 26, 2013 1:19PM (EDT)

After several P.R. missteps involving allegations of racism -- for which she issued a non-apology apology via a rep, canceled a Friday "Today" show interview and released a series of bizarre apology videos on YouTube -- celebrity chef Paula Deen has come out to defend herself on national television.

"I am here today because I want people to know who I am, and people who have worked beside me walked beside me, know what kind of person I am. I am so distressed that people I have never heard of are experts on who I am," a weepy Deen told Matt Lauer on the "Today" show this morning. "I'm not a racist."

When Lauer pushed Deen to talk about her use of the N-word, Deen maintained she used it only "once," 30 years ago. "The day I used that word was a world ago," she said.

"So reports that you were asked in that deposition, whether you had used the N-Word on other occasions and said 'probably' or 'of course,' are inaccurate?" asked Lauer.

However, Deen then said, "No. I answered the question truthfully."

Deen also skirted the question on whether she thinks that the N-word is offensive. When Lauer asked, "Do you have any doubt in your mind that African Americans are offended by the N-word?" Deen replied, "I don't know, Matt, I have asked myself that so many times, because it's very distressing to go into my kitchens and hear what people are calling each other."

Teary-eyed, Deen addressed the nation, saying: "If there's anyone out there that has never said something that they wish they could take back, 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 and they wanted it."

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By Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at

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Food Network Matt Lauer Paula Deen Paula Deen Apology Racism Video