Today show did the happy dance this morning — announcing it has booked Paula Deen to sit down with them tomorrow for what it insists will be her first TV interview since her career-nuking visit to the NBC morning infotainment program in June of 2013. Entertainment Tonight, however, says Nancy O’Dell interviewed Deen last week and its taped interview will air tonight, beating Today to the punch.
At any rate, on Today, Deen will discuss “What she has learned since then” as well as “what has changed, and what’s next for her.”
Deen was Last Summer’s Scandal, when she appeared on Today to say she was “heartbroken” upon learning there is some serious blow-back to acknowledging in a deposition use of “the n-word’ in her 66 years. It was a much delayed but much ballyhooed live interview in which Deen attempted to salvage her business empire in the wake of that revelation, which caused The Food Network to decide not to renew her contract and sponsors dropped her like a hot potato. “Millions of dollars are at stake for today’s interview,” Matt Lauer had said ominously that morning ” Are you here to say what you just said, or to stop the financial bleeding?” To which Deen replied, “I’m here because I want people to know who I am.” Today cameramen zoomed in on her anguished face throughout the segment, especially at the end when she really got going. For his part, Lauer also was trying to save his career with big ‘gets’ like Deen, and he followed a stern line of questioning sure to please those calling for Paula to be punished, sitting back in his chair, looking like judge and jury.
The interview was considered a public relations debacle. And, in a move that may have caused celebrities on trial in the court of public opinion to think twice before using Today to get out their message, almost immediately after the interview, Today began to critique her appearance — and gave Deen mostly failing grades. “Paula Deen’s TODAY apology ‘failed’ and was ‘bizarre,’ experts say”, ran the Today.com headline. “Opinions are split over how effective her 13-minute mea culpa really was.” The critique included reviews by public relations experts, one of whom noted, “(Former President Richard Nixon) never apologized by saying he was guilty or wrong about Watergate; she was the same way.”
The Today on-air gang also jumped in with both feet. “You need a pot holder to touch my phone right now,” Lauer said happily. And, Carson Daly filed a report in which he said social media response to the sit-down included this tweet: “Obviously, she hasn’t learned a single hot-buttered thing.”