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Matt Lauer informed viewers on air that he spoke with the Food Network chef on Thursday, and she agreed to an exclusive sitdown with the NBC co-anchor where the discussion would be “open and candid, no holds barred.” By Friday morning, however, Deen apparently changed her mind. According to Lauer, her representative said Deen was backing out, just ahead of Today‘s 7 a.m. air time.
“Her publicity people have told us that she’s exhausted and will not be showing up,” said Lauer, relaying that Deen had told him the day before: “I don’t know how to be anything but honest.”
Lauer said Deen had flown to New York Thursday night. Al Roker, discussing Deen’s no-show on Today, called Deen a friend of the show and said he hoped she would reconsider because “she really needs to address this.”
In a deposition for her current discrimination lawsuit, in which the 66-year-old and her brother Bubba Heirs are being are being sued by a former employee, Deen admitted to using the racial slur in the past, but said she wouldn’t use it today. (Besides media headlines, her comments sparked much snark on social media and also became fodder for John Oliver on The Daily Show, where the Jon Stewart fill-in lampooned Deen in a segment entitled “Fried and Prejudice.”)
On Thursday, Paula Deen Enterprises released a statement in defense of her confession, saying: “[Paula] was born 60 years ago when America’s South had schools that were segregated, different bathrooms, different restaurants and Americans rode in different parts of the bus. This is not today.” Deen, the statement read, “does not find acceptable the use of this term under any circumstance by anyone nor condone any form of racism or discrimination.”
Representatives for Deen and The Food Network did not respond to The Hollywood Reporter‘s request for comment on her decision to pull out of the Lauer interview.
Lauer tweeted Friday, “Hoping to get more info on the Paula Deen situation soon. Very confusing.”
By afternoon, Deen broke her silence on Twitter, announcing that a video statement was about to be released. She posted a video of herself taping the missive. Rather than being grilled by Lauer, a no-nonsense interviewer, Deen seemingly opted to control the message off live television.
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