Celebrity chef 'heartbroken' over racist remark scandal

Celebrity chef Paula Deen broke down in tears when she appeared on the Today show in the US.Photo / AP
Celebrity chef Paula Deen broke down in tears when she appeared on the Today show in the US.Photo / AP

US celebrity chef Paula Deen, embroiled in a scandal over past racist remarks, said she never intended to cause any harm and was "heartbroken" by the controversy.

But in her first live television appearance on the topic, a defiant Deen suggested others jealous of her success are to blame for the media firestorm.

The self-proclaimed queen of Southern cooking, a culinary icon in the United States, and has faced a backlash over her comments in a deposition for a discrimination lawsuit filed by a former employee.

In the document, Deen admitted to using a racial slur for African Americans and was subsequently dropped by the Food Network and Smithfield Foods, one of her sponsors.

In an exclusive interview with NBC's Today show, a teary Deen turned to "anyone out there that has never said something that they wish they could take back."

"If you're out there, please pick up that stone and throw it so hard at my head that it kills me. Please. I want to meet you. I want to meet you," she said.

But she added: "I is what I is and I'm not changing. And - there's someone evil out there that saw what I had worked for and they wanted it."

The 66-year-old, who apologised in two video messages last week after being a no-show on the Today show, also said she would never purposely hurt anyone.

"I would never, never - and I can truthfully say in my life - I have never with any intention hurt anybody on purpose. And I never would," said Deen, clutching a tissue.

"I'm heartbroken ... I've had to hold friends in my arms while they sobbed because they know what's being said about me is not true."

Deen said she used the "N-word" on only one occasion "a world ago" - when a man put a gun to her head decades ago.

"No, it's just not a part of - it's just not a part of who we are," she said when asked if she ever used the word again.

"I know my love for people," she said. "And I'm not going to sit here and tell everything that I have done for people of color. I'm not going to do it. Somebody else can tell that."

In addition to appearing on several television shows, Deen has also published more than a dozen cookbooks, opened two restaurants in Savannah, Georgia, and launched product lines.

Last year, fans were outraged when she announced she had Type 2 diabetes and that same day backed diabetes drug Victoza and teamed up with its manufacturer Novo Nordisk in a lucrative deal.

- AFP

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