Update, 4:36 p.m. Eastern: The Food Network has decided not to renew Paula Deen's contract, which expires in nine days.
Statement from Food Network spokesman: “Food Network will not renew Paula Deen's contract when it expires at the end of this month.”— Hunter Walker (@hunterw) June 21, 2013
When Deen's deposition and usage of the n-word leaked earlier this week, The Food Network had told journalists that they were "continu[ing] to monitor the situation." It's been a weird Friday.
Original: After a leaked deposition told the world the story of Paula Deen and the "really Southern plantation wedding" with black slaves, and even after her lawyers defended her use of the n-word, the Food Network star is very much on the defensive — and her last-minute cancellation of a Today show tell-all on Friday isn't helping. (Update: She said she was sorry in a video, below. Update 2: There is another video. It's pretty weird, too.)
In the middle of Today's 7 a.m. hour, Matt Lauer made the announcement that Deen had scheduled an exclusive live interview with Today — and that she simply did not show up. "We spoke several times with her people yesterday, and I spoke with Paula yesterday afternoon," Lauer said. "We arranged an interview this morning. We agreed there would be no restrictions." The host insisted that Deen's excuse was that the chef was in New York City but was "exhausted," and that he had not heard from Deen since their last conversation. Here's the clip:
Indeed, no one really knows why Deen canceled her first public statement since the scandal broke. Not even Lauer himself:
Hoping to get more info on the Paula Deen situation soon. Very confusing.— Matt Lauer (@MLauer) June 21, 2013
That isn't good form. And it's not like Today has been all that tough on Deen in the past: "And she's been on this show so many times, a friend of the show," Al Roker said as the show scrambled to fill a little air time. "We consider her a friend." The weather man/soft-news segment host was referring to cooking segments, but Today was also the host for Deen to squash one of the biggest controversies of her career: Back in January 2012, when she was keeping her Type 2 diabetes secret and preparing to become the face of the diabetes drug Novo Nordisk — despite peddling food drenched in calories and butter — Today was her first stop on the damage-control tour. Roker and Co. let her say things on air like this: "Honey I'm your cook, not your doctor ... I've always encouraged moderation," despite evidence to the contrary.
Deen certainly could use another friendly interview right about now. The deposition from Deen, a product of an employment discrimination lawsuit, was first leaked to the National Enquirer and then released in full on Wednesday. "Yes, of course... It's just what they are — they're jokes... most jokes are about Jewish people, rednecks, black folks... I can’t determine what offends another person," Deen can be heard saying in response to a question about her use of the n-word. And the deposition also contained that line about Deen fantasizing of an all-black staff to recreate a "really Southern plantation wedding."
On Thursday, Deen's lawyers released the first statement from her camp addressing these very serious revelations and blamed Deen's use of the n-word on history. "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," her lawyers said. But at no point this week have we heard from Deen herself — the kind of move that ultimately served her well during her diabetes controversy. But her bailing on Lauer and the confusion that's ensued this morning may ultimately look worse than just being silent. Now, it appears, one of America's most popular food-TV personalities is hiding from her n-word-using, slave-fantasizing ways.
Update, 12:06 p.m. Eastern: Deen, through Twitter, has announced she will be releasing a video statement.
Update, 2:59 p.m.: The video is back online:
Update 4:11, p.m.: Deen has released another video. In this one, there is more apologizing, and it looks like Deen is in an empty office with a giant makeup kit behind her. But what's interesting about round two is that it includes an apology to Matt Lauer, with the chef saying that she was "physically unable" to make good on her scheduled interview this morning. Deen goes on to apologize to pretty much everyone she can think of, and mentions something about "sexual preference" (a big faux pas, and weren't we talking about her being racist, not anti-gay?) before asking for more forgiveness from the American people. "I offer my sincere apology to those that I have hurt and I hope that you forgive me ... because this comes from the deepest part of my heart," Deen says, her sing-songy accent decidedly toned down. You'll want to watch the whole thing.