“Hello everybody out there!” Paula Deen gushed, waving and blowing kisses to people on the Today set, as she sat this morning with Matt Lauer. She’d come — this time accompanied by her sons — to plug her new digital food network. A year earlier, Deen had wailed and blubbered as Lauer grilled her about the scandal in which she found herself when a leaked deposition revealed her admitted use of a racial slur. The controversy caused her to lose most of her big-name deals, including QVC, Target, and Walmart; Food Network canceled her show, Matt noted.
He played a tape of last year’s interview, in which he’d ask her if she was a racist “by birth, by choice, by osmosis.” He noted that several months later all charges in the discrimination lawsuit filed by an employee at one of the restaurants she owned with her brother were dismissed. Now, for her career’s “next course” she’s launched the Paula Deen Network, carrying all of her Food Network programs plus original content.
“I want to let our audience know you couldn’t even look at parts of that story,” Matt said of the taped bit shown to viewers.
“I looked at none of it. I didn’t recognize that woman,” Deen emoted. “That was a woman in trauma — in, I would say shock, trying to understand what had happened. And, the cold hard fact is I probably should not have been here — I probably should have been at home, maybe even under the care of a doctor.”
“Because of what you had admitted, you were radioactive in the business world,” Matt said, wondering if “enough people put aside questions of your character” to support the new network — and, he wanted to know how much she had paid for all of her Food Network programs. She coyly declined to answer.
“More than $20?” Matt persisted. Son Jamie jumped in to explain that library is only an “element” of the network but “not the driving force” and they’ve already developed 100 new cooking episodes.
Matt asked Deen what she had learned. “I learned so much… I feel like it’s going to require another book. But we are working on a documentary. I feel everybody needs to know the whole story –“
Matt interrupted, repeating his question. Happy Paula does not get as much Today air time as Scandal Embroiled Paula.
“I’m getting to that — Now I forgot what I was going to say!” Deen scolded.
She remembered in the nick of time, and began to talk about “the power of words” no matter how old they are, and how “people lost their jobs” over last year’s fracas, adding, “I’m here to make people happy, not bring sadness.”
Matt, wrapping things up, declared himself happy to be sitting next to “a different person than last year.” Deen, sensing opportunity, jumped back in:
“I don’t know that woman and when I see things like that I’ll run from the room, because I don’t know her. I’ve been through several traumatic experiences, like every woman out there in the home –“
Son Bobby, who’d apparently heard that one before, interrupted his mom and said the new channel, born of necessity, is a project about which he and his mother are very excited.
“And the network is going to be wonderful!” added Deen, getting in the last word.