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Paula Deen scandal continues after tearful 'Today' appearance

By Kristen Butler, UPI.com   |   June 26, 2013 at 1:51 PM  |  Updated June 26, 2013 at 3:37 PM   |   Comments

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June 26 (UPI) -- Celebrity chef Paula Deen gave a tearful apology on "Today" this morning, in her first appearance since it was revealed she admitted using a racial slur and planned a "plantation style" wedding during a legal deposition in a discrimination lawsuit.

After bailing on the program for her scheduled appearance Friday, Deen issued two disastrous video apologies that led to the Food Network to cancel her contract. On Monday, Smithfield Foods canceled their partnership with the Southern chef. in and said she regards every one of God's creatures as equal and believes they all should be treated that way.

It has been rumored that Paula Deen hired crisis P.R. guru Judy Smith -- the basis for Kerry Washington’s character on ABC’s "Scandal" -- to help her navigate public apologies and appearances.

Deen maintains that the only time she used the slur was "during a robbery" at a bank where she worked decades ago.

When "Today" host Matt Lauer asked if she's racist, Deen said, "No, no. I'm not." When asked if she believes whether the n-word is offensive to black people, she astonishingly responded that she wasn't sure.

"I don't know. I have asked myself that so many times. It's very distressing for me to go into kitchens and hear what these young people are calling each other. ... I think for this problem to be worked on, these these young people are gonna have to take control and start showing respect for each other."

When asked whether she would have fired herself, Deen replied, "Would I have fired me? Knowing me? No. ... I am so very thankful for the partners I have who believe in me."

"I is what I is, and I'm not changing," a tearful Deen told Lauer.

The program had fans and experts weigh in on Deen's appearance, and ultimately gave her plea a failing grade, calling it a "non-apology."

Though Deen was unaware while on-air, Caesars Entertainment Corporation announced Wednesday that it will end its relationship with the embattled chef and rebrand Paula Deen themed restaurants at four of its casinos.

Despite her crumbling culinary empire, fans have come out in support of the Georgia chef online. Deen's cookbooks have shot up the Movers and Shakers chart on Amazon.com, including preorders for her upcoming "Paula Deen's New Testament."

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