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.)


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