The Live TV Moment That Butchered Paula Deen's Career

Paula Deen used to be one of the core performers on Food Network, with multiple shows (including Paula's Home Cooking, which aired from 2002-2012 and filmed 124 episodes), appearances on talk shows and other programs, and even a few cookbooks under her belt. But soon it was revealed that Deen, like so many Food Network stars before her, wasn't the person she seemed on camera — and when she went on the Today Show in 2013 to discuss allegations of racism at her restaurant, it basically butchered her career. 

First, a little back story.

The reason Dean was asked on the Today Show in the first place was to address a court case. Deen and her brother were being sued by a former employee, the manager of one of their Georgia restaurants, for sexual and racial harassment. 

During her deposition, when asked if she had ever used the "N-word," Deen said, "Yes, of course." She referenced a time when she was held up at a bank she was working at, and said she probably used the slur when telling her husband about the event. When asked if she had used it any other time, Deen said, "I'm sure I have, but it's been a very long time," and also that she may have said it when repeating things other people told her (via CNN). 

Additionally, Deen admitted to telling jokes "about Jewish people, rednecks, black folks," saying "they're jokes... I can't determine what offends another person" (via Business Insider).

She apparently also had planned a plantation-themed party for her brother's wedding, and wanted to hire only Black people as the waiters, after going to a restaurant that did the same. "I mean, it was really impressive. That restaurant represented a certain era in America... after the Civil War, during the Civil War, before the Civil War... It was not only black men, it was black women... I would say they were slaves," Deen said in court (via Delish). 

After the court deposition was made public, Deen's Food Network show was canceled, and many of her other business deals — partnerships with Smithfield Hams, QVC, and a cookbook that was already being pre-ordered — fell through. Then, after being fired from Food Network, Deen was given a chance to appear on the Today Show to talk about what had happened and tell her side of the story. 

But instead of taking it as an opportunity to apologize, she used her Today Show spot to say that she didn't think she should have been fired. 

"I was in a state of shock," Deen said about losing her job. "There's been some very, very hurtful lies said about me," she said, though one might wonder what was said about her that would rival her calling someone a racial slur (via Today). 

Instead of apologizing for her words and actions, Deen tried to claim that she believed firmly in equality, saying that she believed that everyone should be treated equally and that's how she was raised.

When Matt Lauer (himself now discredited) asked Deen, "Would you have fired you?" Deen was firm in her response.

"Would I have fired me? Knowing me? No." She also denied having any racist thoughts or racist tendencies, in spite of having gone on the record under oath saying that she had in fact used the "N-word" more than once, and then tried again to justify using the "N-word" when she was held up at the bank. Even under duress Deen shouldn't have used a racial slur, but rather than apologize for her behavior, she tried to make her case, and it didn't go well. 

After the interview, the nail was really in Deen's coffin. PR experts weighed in on whether or not Deen's career could recover, and many argued that her strange non-apology made it clear she would still be a liability to work with (via Today). 

Deen hasn't disappeared for good, however. She's made a bit of a comeback since the incident in 2013, appearing on talk shows, opening a new chain of restaurants, collaborating on a fashion line, and starring in a new television show. 

Still, it's a long climb back to the stardom she had achieved before her appearance on the Today Show