Celebrity chef Paula Deen was getting plenty of gratuitous damage control advice from public relations "experts" around the web and at the top of the list was a sit down with Oprah Winfrey. If the Food Network couldn't bring itself to set an example of forgiveness, surely Oprah, a powerful inspiration to many, can and might. But that was before her interview with Matt Lauer on "Today" on June 26, 2013.
In a USA Today article, pre-Lauer interview, branding expert Allen Adamson warned that the Georgia-born chef needed to be honest with the "Today" show host about her inability to keep her last appearance on Friday, June 21. "Honesty is always the best policy," he said, which is hilarious. Honesty is what got Deen in the deep fryer to begin with. Indeed, Lauer asked the embattled cook if she regretted "not fudging the truth" in her deposition in Federal court. Deen replied that she does not because there are two types of people she is prejudiced against and that she does not like: thieves and liars.
It was a slightly different Deen that appeared on "Today" than the one who appeared in the infamous "Paula Deen Apology Trilogy" last Friday, when Paula appeared to be reading from a prepared script so badly that at least the first video came out choppy and strange. She was mocked and called insincere as a result. Matt Lauer wanted to know if her real aim now was just to "stop the financial bleeding."
The once much-celebrated Southern cooking expert says she is still very much distressed over how she has been portrayed in the media. People she never heard of are "all of a sudden, experts" on who she is. "You know what distresses me the very most, Matt," she said, "their words are being given weight."
Lauer, however, was not interested in Deen's anxieties, but wanted to focus on her loss of sponsorship and whether she was a racist or not. While emphatically denying such a charge, the celeb chef said she was not going to trot out a list of things she has done for people of color. She also says she does not want her fans to boycott Food Network.
Her apology, however, to anyone she has ever hurt still stands because she never intentionally meant to hurt anyone. Cynically, Lauer continued to suggest that her sorrow stems from her loss of revenue. "I am not an actress," Deen said tearfully and challenged anyone who has never wanted to take back damaging words once uttered to stone her. "If you're out there, please pick up that stone," she said, "and throw it so hard at my head that it kills me. Please, I want to meet you."
That's a tall order that even Oprah Winfrey can't fill. Paula Deen's wrap up statement with Matt Lauer, "I is what I is and I'm not changing," certainly suggests that there is nothing left to confess and there will not be a lot more mea culpa appearances.
Perhaps Oprah could put together a show on celebrity extortion to elaborate on Deen's final statement: "There's someone evil out there that saw what I had worked for and they wanted it."
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- Arts & Entertainment
- Paula Deen
- Matt Lauer
- Oprah Winfrey