Jimmy Carter Supports Paula Deen on CNN (Video)

Jimmy Carter on CNN - H 2013

Jimmy Carter on CNN - H 2013

It's official: everyone has an opinion on Paula Deen, former U.S. presidents included.

Jimmy Carter, who also happens to be a close friend of the embattled celebrity chef, tells CNN that he supports Deen in her darkest hour as she struggles to resurrect her public image and rapidly imploding business empire following her N-word confession.

"Now I know Paula Deen quite well, for a long period of time, and I advised her to let the dust settle and to make apologies," says Carter, who appeared on the news channel to promote his forthcoming human rights forum. "And she has some very beneficial human programs in Savannah, Georgia, where she lives, that benefit almost exclusively oppressed and poverty-stricken black people, African-American citizens in her own community. And I advised her to get some of those people who she's helping every day to speak out and show that she has changed in her relationship with African-American people, with minorities in the last number of years. My heart goes out to her but of course there's no condoning the use of a word that abuses other people."

Deen and Carter grew up some 40 miles apart in Georgia, and Deen -- who's fighting a discrimination lawsuit brought by an ex-restaurant employee -- sought the human rights activist's insight in the fallout from a deposition released last week in which she admitted to having said the N-word in the past and discussed her desire to stage a "true Southern plantation-style" wedding.

Deen has lost many of her major sponsors in the past few days, including Home Depot, Target, Walmart, Smithfield Foods, Caesars Entertainment and QVC. Last week, The Food Network decided not to renew Deen’s contract when it expires at the end of the month.  On the flip side, sales of her upcoming cookbook are skyrocketing and there's an uptick in demand for a pair of excursions on her Paula Deen cruise trips slated for next year. And Hoffman Media, which publishes her bimonthly magazine Cooking With Paula Deen, announced Friday that it was standing by the culinary star, saying: "The recent images portrayed by the media do not reflect the person we know on a personal or a professional level."

Email: Erin.Carlson@THR.com

Twitter: @ErinLCarlson