Paula Deen said in a "Today" appearance Wednesday that she wouldn't have fired herself over her use of the "N" word, and she contradicted her testimony in a deposition last month by asserting that she has only used the word once in her life.
Deen, who has been dropped by the Food Network and Smithfield Foods, also said she believes all people are equal. She appeared on the show after cancelling a planned appearance Friday at the last minute.
Asked by Matt Lauer whether she was a racist, Deen replied, "No," adding: "I believe that … every one of God’s creatures was created equal. I believe that everyone should be treated equal, that’s the way I was raised, and that’s the way I live my life."
Deen earned $17 million last year through her various ventures, according to Forbes. Lauer asked if she was "here to stop the financial bleeding."
"I am here today because I want people to know who I am and people that have worked beside me, have walked beside me, know what kind of person I am. And I am so distressed that people I have never heard of are all of a sudden experts on who I am."
Lauer asked if Deen thought she should have been fired.
"Would I have fired me? Knowing me? No," she said. "I am so very thankful for the partners I have who believe in me." She noted that QVC, which is weighing its options, has not dropped her.
Deen told Lauer she had only used the "N" word in 1986, when a black man robbed the bank where she was working.
“The day I used that word it was a world ago — it was 30 years ago — I had had a gun put to my head,” said Deen.
But she said something different in her May 17 deposition. When asked if she had used the word since the robbery, Deen said: "I'm sure I have, but it's been a very long time."
Lauer pressed her on the inconsistency, and Deen replied, "Never," adding that the robbery was the only time "in my 66 years on Earth had I ever used it.”
In her deposition, however, Deen said she was "sure" she had used it since — "maybe in repeating something that was said to me … probably a conversation between blacks. I don't — I don't know."
Deen was compelled to testify in a lawsuit brought against her and her brother by a former employee at a restaurant they own. She said she was offended by racist, sexist and violent behavior by Deen's brother, Bubba Hiers, and that Deen did nothing to stop him.
More to come. Watch the interview: