Matt Lauer interviews Paula Deen, right, on NBC’s “Today” show on Wednesday.
NEW YORK — U.S. celebrity chef Paula Deen, under fire after she admitted using a racial slur, said in a tearful TV interview on Wednesday that she is not a racist, as retailer Walmart said it was cutting ties with the chef.
In an interview on NBC’s “Today” show, the Southern food doyenne said she never intentionally hurt anyone and that it was important for her to tell “everyone out there what I believe and how I live my life.”
When asked if she felt she had racist tendencies, she replied, “No.”
It was her first TV interview since The Food Network said Friday it would drop her show after she was sued for discrimination and admitted in a legal deposition that she had used a racial slur in the past.
Deen, who has built a business empire that includes cookbooks, restaurants and kitchen supplies, was also dropped by pork giant Smithfield Foods Inc last week. On Wednesday, Walmart was the latest company to sever ties.
“We are ending our relationship with Paula Deen Enterprises,” Walmart spokeswoman Danit Marquardt told Reuters.
Marquardt said Walmart, the biggest division of Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world’s largest retailer, will not place new orders beyond those already committed with Deen’s company for branded products including groceries, cookware and candles.
The controversy surrounding Deen erupted last week when a deposition was released in transcript form in which Deen, who is white, was asked if she had used the “N-word,” and responded, “Yes, of course.”
On “Today,” Deen said she was thankful for the support she has received, and also heartbroken because she has had to comfort friends distressed about things being said about her that she said were untrue.
“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. I want to meet you,” she said, sobbing.
The 66-year-old celebrity chef had called off a scheduled interview with NBC on Friday to discuss the situation and instead released a video defending herself.
The Food Network, which is owned by Scripps Network Interactive Inc, later said it would not renew her contract when it expires at the end of June.
Deen’s fans have voiced their support for the chef online, expressing anger on the Facebook pages for the Food Network and Walmart, with many saying they’ll boycott both companies for severing ties with Deen.