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In a nationally televised interview with the Today show’s Matt Lauer, Paula Deen broke down in tears as she slammed the racial slur accusations that have ruined her reputation and business empire.
Former restaurant employee Lisa Jackson, who accused Deen of making racial slurs and sexual innuendos, filed a lawsuit against the 66-year-old celebrity chef. Food Network and sponsor Smithfield have fired Deen in response to the accusations, and TMZ reports that Caesars will be closing her four restaurants that operate in their casinos. On Wednesday, Wal-Mart -- which carries food items, cookware and health and wellness products under Deen's name -- also announced it had ended its relationship with the chef. After cancelling her Today interview on Friday, she sat down to address the “hurtful lies” against her.
"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 on this earth -- every one of God’s creatures -- was created equal,” the Georgia native said. “No matter who you choose to go to bed at night with. No matter what church you go to pray. I believe that everyone should be treated equal. That's the way I was raised. That's the way I live my life."
When Lauer asked if Deen would have fired herself, she replied, “Would I have fired me? Knowing me? No.”
Lauer then went on to ask the question everyone has been arguing over: Is Deen a racist?
“No, no I'm not. As a child I was raised in a home that my father tolerated bad grades, he would tolerate maybe me breaking a curfew. He told me, he said, 'Girl, if I ever found 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.'"
But is Deen truly sorry for her use of the n-word? Or is she just trying to salvage her reputation and what Lauer refers to as “financial bleeding” from the sponsors who have already dropped her?
"I am here today because I want people to know who I am. People that have worked beside me. Have walked beside me. Know what kind of person I am."
She told Lauer that she used the n-word once when a black man held her at gunpoint 30 years ago. She then explained how she finds the word “distressing” when she hears it used by people who work in her kitchens.
Deen ended the interview in tears by addressing the viewers and asking, “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."
Watch the entire segmant below:
Since the interview aired, Home Depot and Target, which both carried Paula Deen cookware, and the diabetes drug maker Novo Nordisk, for which she was a spokeswoman, all dropped the chef.
Teresa Roca is an iVillage contributing writer. Follow her on Google+.