The southern cook, 66, had been scheduled to appear on Friday’s broadcast to discuss her admission under oath in a deposition for a discrimination lawsuit that she has used racial epithets.
But, according to Lauer, Deen’s rep contacted the show moments before she was set to appear live and told producers that she is “exhausted” after flying into New York overnight and would not be showing up at the studio.
“We had planned to have an exclusive live interview with Paula Deen this morning,” Lauer announced on-air Friday. “We spoke several times with her people yesterday and then I spoke with Paula yesterday afternoon. We arranged an interview this morning. We agreed there would be no restrictions to that interview only that it would be an open and candid exchange.”
“We started to hear from her people that she is exhausted. She has not called us at all,” Lauer continued. “Her publicity person and I spoke a little while ago. Simply said they believe she is in the hotel but she has not confirmed anything other than she is not here.”
“Paula is beside herself,” a source close to Deen told PEOPLE earlier this week. “This is killing her. She’s so beaten down by this.”
Although she hasn’t apologized, Paula Deen Enterprises released a statement on Thursday explaining Deen’s use of racial slurs. “During a deposition where she swore to tell the truth, Ms. Deen recounted having used a racial epithet in the past, speaking largely about a time in American history which was quite different than today,” the statement reads. “To be clear Ms. Deen does not find acceptable the use of this term under any circumstance by anyone nor condone any form of racism or discrimination.”
But now all eyes are on Deen to address the issue publicly.
“We would consider her a friend,” Today‘s Al Roker said after learning Deen pulled out of her appearance. “We would hope that she’ll reconsider because she really needs to address this.”
• Reporting by LIZA HAMM