Saying she “committed a sin” with her racial remark and did something she deeply regrets, Paula Deen broke down in tears on national television Wednesday, making her delayed appearance on Today after she pulled out at the last minute from a scheduled interview on the NBC show last Friday.
In the course of her 13-minute interview, Deen, repeatedly stating she believes “everyone created on God’s earth is created equal that’s the way I was raised and that’s the way I live my life,” said, “I’ve had wonderful support from Rev. [Jesse] Jackson, and I tell ya what: If there’s anyone out there that has never said something that they wish they could take back, if you are out there, please pick up that stone and throw it so hard at me that it kills me. Please, I want to meet you I is what I is, and I’m not changing.”
The celebrity chef’s fall from grace began when, in a legal deposition, she admitted to past use of the N-word. She later apologized, which she continued to do on Today. Social media reaction to her interview, the program announced afterward, was evenly split for and against her.
“It’s hard for me to find the words for how I feel,” an emotionally charged Deen, 66, told Today‘s Matt Lauer when he asked why she had missed Friday’s interview. “I was overwhelmed in a state of shock.”
Are you a racist? Lauer asked.
“No,” she said.
Talking about the way she was raised, Deen said her father might have tolerated a bad grade in school or a missed curfew, “but if you think you’re better than others,” she quoted him as saying, “your butt is going to be mine.”
Asked if her appearance Wednesday was to stop the financial bleeding her controversy has caused, Deen tiptoed around the question before Lauer brought her back to it.
“I am here today because I want the world to know who I am,” she said initially. Pressed to answer if she felt she had been treated fairly by the businesses with which she is associated, Deen said, “Would I have fired me? No. Knowing me? No.”
When she stated that “QVC has not dropped me,” Lauer pointed out that the shopping network said it was still weighing its options.”
“Only two have dropped me,” Deen clarified, referring to the Food Network and Smithfield Foods.
As for whether, in hindsight, she wishes she had fudged during the deposition and denied she had ever used the racially ugly term, Deen replied, “No, because there’s a couple of kinds of people that I am prejudiced against, and that’s thieves and liars.”
For more on the devastation Deen is feeling, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday