Matt Lauer vs. Paula Deen. Lauer: 1. Deen: ???

Did the Allegedly Racist TV Cook Rescue Her Personal Brand? You Decide

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Paula Deen this morning
Paula Deen this morning Credit: NBC

On this morning's episode of NBC's reality-TV series "The Today Show," the journalist character, Matt Lauer, interrogated the sassy Southern cook character, Paula Deen, over accusations that she's a racist. You can gorge yourself on the full, deep-fried banquet of an interview below, but if you're watching your media diet -- and/or have allergies to grandstanding displays of self-pity -- here's a selection of bite-sized "highlights," so to speak, from the confrontation:

• The interview got meta early on when Matt Lauer said, "One of the headlines I read, Paula, said, 'Millions of Dollars at Stake for Paula Deen in Today Show Interview.' Are you here to ... stop the financial bleeding?" Well, duh.

Naturally she said, "I am here today because I want people to know who I am...."

• Lauer held Deen's feet to the fire by pressing her about her deposition (for a lawsuit against her by a former manager of her restaurants) in which she owned up to using the "N" word. This morning she insisted that she only ever said the "N" word once in her life -- when she had a gun to her head during a robbery attempt. Lauer pressed on, saying,

Let me ask you about this part of the deposition. You were asked whether using the "N" word in telling a joke was hurtful, and you said, quote, "I don't know, most jokes are about Jewish people, rednecks, black folks. I didn't make up the jokes. They usually target a group. I cannot myself determine what offends another person." That last sentence gets me. Do you have any doubt in your mind that African Americans are offended by the "N" word?

Deen's priceless response:

I don't know, Matt. I have asked myself that many times because it's very distressing for me to go into my kitchen and I hear what these young people are calling each other. It's very, very distressing.... These young people are going to have to take control and start showing respect for each other -- and not throwing that word at each other. That -- it, it's, it makes my skin crawl.

• Deen first started to get choked up about 8 minutes into the interview when she told a tale about her 7-year-old grandson saying that he always tells the truth -- like she does, of course -- and then again 11 minutes in when she said, "I've had to hold friends in my arms while they sobbed because they know what's being said about me is not true. And I'm having to comfort them and tell them it's going to be alright."

• But the real fireworks came at the 12-minute mark when Deen took on the role of the unjustly persecuted martyr and turned to the camera at times to address, well, you (you awful person, you):

I tell you what, 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. I is what I is and I'm not changing. And I [long pause] -- there's someone evil out there that saw what I had worked for and they wanted it.

Yes, she actually said, "I is what I is." And astonishingly, Lauer's response to Deen's line hinting at some sort of grand conspiracy to take her down, was, "Let's end it on that. Paula Deen, thank you for being here this morning."

Somehow Lauer also failed to ask Deen what she thinks of Kanye West's foul-mouthed "Yeezus," and what her favorite track on the new album is. Because, really, if the real problem is not Paula Deen, but "these young people" who are tossing around the "N" word, then clearly this whole interview should have been about West and his kind, not Deen. Matt Lauer put the wrong person on trial!

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. Follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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