Paula Deen Makes Her Case on Today Show

Paula Deen Makes Her Case on Today Show

Paula Deen sobbed as she defended herself against the claims that she's a racist.

The celebrity chef gave her first, live television interview since the uproar over her admission that she used the N-word in the past.

The embattled chef sat down for an exclusive interview with Matt Lauer on the Today show this morning. She was scheduled to appear on the show last week, but canceled at the last minute because of exhaustion.

"The day I used that word, it was a world ago. It was 30 years ago. I had a gun put to my head," Deen said.

Lauer asked, "Do you have any doubt in your mind that African Americans are offended by the N-word?"

And Deen replied, "I don't know, Matt. I have asked myself so many times because it's very distressing for me to go into my kitchens and I hear what these young people are calling each other."

Deen went on to say that she never joined in on the language being used in her kitchens.

Deen is being sued by a former restaurant manager, Lisa Jackson. Jackson alleges she witnessed a pattern of racial discrimination at the restaurant. 

Food Network and Smithfield Foods have severed ties with the southern chef.  

During the interview, Deen broke down in tears, sobbing as she described the pain the scandal has caused her family and friends.

"I've had to hold friends in my arms while they've sobbed because of what's been said about me is not true," Deen said.

Through her tears she spoke directly to viewers.

"If there's 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," Deen said.

So, how does Deen come across in her interview?

Body language expert Tonya Reiman analyzed the tape for INSIDE EDITION.

"The first time that she starts to cry, I felt like that was a little forced. In fact, you don't actually see tears come out until the very end of the interview," Reiman said.

Reaction to Deen's interview has been swift.

Wendy Williams said on her show, "First of all, her tears are not real. Second of all, I can't believe she said throw a stone at her head."

And Whoopi Goldberg stated on The View, "I don't think she can move on. As someone who has stepped in it more than once, sometimes it takes a long time for people to say okay. I'm okay with you now."

But Deen also said she has received some powerful support.

"I've had wonderful support from Reverend Jackson," Deen said.

INSIDE EDITION spoke to Reverend Jesse Jackson by phone.  

"My sense is that Paula is contrite in her apologies. Those words are offensive but no one is beyond redemption," he said.

As the Food Network and Smithfield Foods sever ties with Deen, other aspects of her empire are gaining ground.

Her cookbook sales are on the rise.  Orders for Paula Deen's New Testament have surged on Amazon.com by 1,300 percent.

And, the annual Paula Deen Cruise has also seen an increase in reservations.  

Meantime, we're also learning that Deen has reportedly hired the powerful Washington, D.C. crisis manager Judy Smith. She's the inspiration for Kerry Washington's character on Scandal.

Now, only time will tell if Deen can put "this" scandal behind her.