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Paula Deen's 'Today' show appearance ends in tears

Despite her teary mea culpa on NBC's "Today" show, two additional companies decided to part ways with Paula Deen Wednesday afternoon.

Paula Deen's 'Today' show appearance ends in tears

In this publicity image released by NBC, celebrity chef Paula Deen appears on NBC News´ "Today" show, wednesday, June 26, 2013 in New York. Deen dissolved into tears during a "Today" show interview Wednesday about her admission that she used a racial slur in the past.  The celebrity chef, who had backed out of a "Today" interview last Friday, said she was not a racist and was heartbroken by the controversy that began with her own deposition in a lawsuit. Deen has been dropped by the Food Network and as a celebrity endorser by Smithfield Foods. (AP Photo/NBC, Peter Kramer)
In this publicity image released by NBC, celebrity chef Paula Deen appears on NBC News' "Today" show, wednesday, June 26, 2013 in New York. Deen dissolved into tears during a "Today" show interview Wednesday about her admission that she used a racial slur in the past. The celebrity chef, who had backed out of a "Today" interview last Friday, said she was not a racist and was heartbroken by the controversy that began with her own deposition in a lawsuit. Deen has been dropped by the Food Network and as a celebrity endorser by Smithfield Foods. (AP Photo/NBC, Peter Kramer) ASSOCIATED PRESS

Despite her teary mea culpa on NBC's "Today" show, two additional companies decided to part ways with Paula Deen Wednesday afternoon.

Caesars announced its decision to strip Deen's name from four of its buffet restaurants, while Wal-Mart Stores Inc. disclosed shortly after its plans to sever ties with the culinary figure. The world's largest retailer said it will not be placing "any new orders beyond what's already committed." The Bentonville, Ark.-based company has carried a range of products under the Paula Deen moniker since 2011.

Smithfield Foods dropped Deen on Monday, while the Food Network announced Friday that it was not renewing Deen's contract after she had skipped her initial "Today' show appearance that morning and released a series of apology videos via YouTube that afternoon. 

The celebrity chef dissolved into tears during Wednesday's interview with Matt Lauer as she attempted to explain how she wasn’t a racist- although a deposition filed and leaked last week revealed her use of racial slurs in the past. It was an odd disparity between the Paula Deen known for her cheery, comforting disposition, and the Paula Deen who appeared on the "Today" show, defeated, exhausted and "heartbroken."

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Deen, who began her interview with Lauer by telling him that the last week has left her simply, “overwhelmed," added, "There’s been some very very hurtful lies said about me.” The embattled celebrity chef continued, "I believe that every creature on this earth was created equal."

A skeptical Lauer then interrupted Deen to ask if she was doing the much-anticipated interview to stop the "financial bleeding" of her faltering brand, with "millions of dollars" in product endorsement deals close to toast for the queen of Southern cuisine and her corporate sponsors. "I am here today because I want people to know who I am," she responded.

"People that have worked beside me, have walked beside me know what kind of person I am. I am so distressed that people I have never heard of are [suddenly] experts on who I am," she said as she started to tear up. "Their words are being given weight."

The 66-year-old took time on the morning show to thank the brands and figures who have continually shown their support for the embattled culinary star during this trying period. "I'm so fortunate that so many of my partners that know who I am have decided to stand by me," she said to Lauer. "QVC has not dropped me. There's only two that's dropped me. I'm so very thankful for the partners that I have that believe in me." West Chester-based QVC released a statement to Philly.com Monday morning, saying that the company has been "closely monitoring these events and the ongoing litigation." The home shopping network added, "We are reviewing our business relationship with Ms. Deen, and in the meantime, we have no immediate plans to have her appear on QVC."

As of Wednesday afternoon, the "two" companies that dropped Deen increased to four - a number that could continue to rise. Target Corp., which also carries items under the Paula Deen brand, emphasized that it was "evaluating the situation," while Deen's reps released letters of support from nine different companies that promised to continue to do business with the cook.

Deen is currently in scorching hot water after a leaked deposition in a lawsuit filed by a former employee revealed the chef's admission of using the N-word. The suit accuses Deen of using the slur while she was planning her brother's wedding six years ago, an event where the chef allegedly demanded a "Southern plantation-style wedding."

Wednesday's interview was marked by Lauer directly asking the beleaguered culinary star, "Is Paula Deen a racist?"

"No," she responded. Lauer then pointed out from the leaked deposition that Deen had uttered the N-word. "The day I used that word it was a world ago," she responded. "It was 30 years ago. I had had a gun put to my head because the man that had the gun to my head was my customer at the main office."

It was the only time she had ever used the slur, disclosed Deen. Attorneys "asked me in all my 66 years on earth had I ever used it," she added. "That man was so frightened that day he put the gun to my head... I had gone out on a limb for him and gotten him a loan."

Lauer asked Deen if she regretted her admission of using the N-word. "No," said the celebrity cook. "There's a couple people I don't like that I am prejudiced against: And that's thieves and liars."

The "Today" show co-host proceeded by asking the culinary star if she thought African-Americans are offended by the N-word. "I don't know, Matt," retorted Deen. "I have asked myself that so many times. It's very distressing for me to go into my kitchens and hear what people are calling each other. I think for this problem to be worked on these young people are gonna have to take control and start showing respect for each other."

A bewildered, tired-looking Deen added, "I'm heartbroken. I've had to hold friends in my arms while they've sobbed because they know what has been said about me. It's not true."

She also revealed that she's communicated with the Rev. Jesse Jackson. "What she did was wrong, but she can change," Jackson shared with the Associated Press Wednesday afternoon.

Deen's "Today" show interview ended with her in tears: "I is what I is and I'm not changing."

"If there's anyone out there that has never said something that they wish they could take back, please pick up that stone and throw it so hard at my head that it kills me," she said. "Please. I want to meet you."

Watch the full interview below.

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