Paula Deen deglazes herself on the “Today” show

Today - Season 62

Some emotions don’t have names in English – “Schadenfreude,” for example. Another, for which I know no word in any language, is sympathetic embarrassment: watching someone make a fool of him/herself, and becoming embarrassed on his/her behalf.

Watch this video of Paula Deen on Wednesday’s “Today” show with Matt Lauer, if you think you can endure it.

Here’s the story in brief: back in May, Paula was deposed in a case in which she and her brother were accused of sexual and racial harassment. She was asked if she’d ever used the N-word, and said, “Yes, of course.” She also said (under oath) that she was sure she’d said it more than once. (She later defended her use of the word in two ways: she was once held up by a black man, and she’d heard black people use the word among themselves.)

When the deposition became public, the Food Network and Smithfield Foods dropped her like a hot buttered potato with extra sour cream.

She apologized on video, not once but three times. Each apology is more excruciating than the last. They are the apologies of someone who’s angry at being caught, and who doesn’t understand exactly what she’s done wrong. In one, she begins by apologizing to Matt Lauer for cancelling her Friday appearance on “Today.” Yes indeed, Matt Lauer’s the offended party here!

She is deeply unrepentant, and deeply insincere. If you didn’t have the bottle to watch the video above (I don’t blame you for that), the most salient point is that she’s deeply hurt by all this, and all those liars, and all the evil people who are working  against her!

What liars? Who’s lying? People are reacting to her own statements. But she doesn’t get that.  “I is what I is,” she says at one point to Matt in the Wednesday-morning interview, as if that’s a justification for doing whatever the hell she likes.

Yes, Paula Deen. You is what you is. You is a not-very-bright person who doesn’t really feel for other people, and you really don’t care about hurting their feelings or offending them.

Late update: Wal-Mart and Caesars Entertainment (who have Paula Deen-themed buffets in four of their casinos) have dropped her, after seeing the Wednesday-morning interview.

(Listen, those of you who love her: Paula will be just fine. There are enough Paula Deen fans to keep her going, for a while, especially in the American South. Her nationwide operation may be a little – hm – cut back, but she’ll probably survive this.

(Her brother and her sons (who have linked their careers to hers) may be cooked, however.

(If so, however, I hope they’re cooked in deep fat and served with gravy, the way Paula would like.)

About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

4 Responses to Paula Deen deglazes herself on the “Today” show

  1. starproms says:

    Interesting! I don’t know who Paula Deen is. We don’t have her over here in England. I couldn’t watch the video for some reason (some of them are not possible over here) but I think I know what might have happened. Here’s my take on it. That word is hardly used anymore, but at one time it was used all the time. It features in famous books, doesn’t it, like maybe Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mark Twain (correct me if I’m wrong). In those days it was, presumably, acceptable. Now it is classed as offensive. Ok she shouldn’t have used it. Did it just slip out perhaps? She looks like the sort of age of person who may have used that word innocently years ago. I don’t use that word but it does exist. If I used it, I would regret it too but surely it isn’t so serious that she has been blocked by the companies she represents? it is after all only a word and I doubt very much if she meant offence by it?
    In the very famous film, the Dam Busters, there is a dog called Nigger. He was called that because he was black. Fair enough – no offence meant. Should we now not watch that film because of the connotations? I think not.
    There is talk about changing the wording in the famous books written long ago but using words which these days have come to mean something different. I say leave them alone. They are part of the time and we need to understand that.

    I think people can be far too sensitive about these things.

    • It’s a shame you couldn’t see the video; you would have been revolted by it.

      Yes, that’s the word. My parents used it all the time; I probably used it a couple of times, when I was young, before I realized how nasty it was. Paula Deen and her brother are being accused, in a court case, of using the word casually around their restaurant (with lots of black employees). Paula isn’t accused of using the word in the restaurant – that would be her brother Bubba – but she’s being accused of allowing it to happen, because it’s really her restaurant, and her brother. In her deposition, she seems to say that she’s used it, but she isn’t really clear on whether it’s derogatory or not. She has apologized four times, and each time is more surreal than the last. She simply doesn’t understand that she should simply say: “I’m sorry. It’s a horrible slur. I will not allow it to be used in my restaurant from this day forward, by anyone.”

      Then there’s another video of her licking butter off a man’s stomach, which speaks for itself.

      • starproms says:

        Ah well I see that I haven’t understood this properly. I will look for the video on Youtube and watch it. I suppose I just don’t believe that anyone would have that much derogatory feeling these days. I don’t think it’s ever been as bad over here.

      • She’s just a crude stupid person who’s been posing as a likeable Southern lady. Good riddance to her.

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