In her much-anticipated Today show appearance this morning, Paula Deen told Matt Lauer she doesn't even know whether the N-word is offensive to black people. "I have asked myself that so many times," she explained before going on to blame kids these days. "I go into my kitchens and hear what these young people are calling each other ... it’s very distressing for me. 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 and not [throw] that word at each other. It makes my skin crawl." Needless to say, she also denied being a racist, and said that Food Network shouldn't have fired her.
She also claimed she only used the N-word once (a switch from what she said during the deposition), while describing a 1986 incident in which a black man held her at gunpoint. "I is what I is, and I'm not changing," declared a sobbing Deen. Amusingly, the Wall Street Journal reports that the Food Network may have given Deen the boot regardless of the whole brouhaha: Her contract ends Sunday, and her agent has been negotiating an extension for weeks and still hadn't resolved the matter before this controversy erupted. The reason behind the uncertainty? A big ratings dip over the past season. Plus, more bad news for Deen: TMZ reports that the Caesars casino company is severing ties with her, closing all four of her restaurants and then re-opening them with different branding. Not surprisingly, the New York Post reports that Deen has hired a top "crisis PR guru." (Read more Paula Deen stories.)