Paula Deen’s first interview since she got embroiled in a racial-slur controversy late last week is scheduled to air on NBC’s "Today" show Wednesday, and it will likely determine the future of her $17 million business empire, public relations experts say.
Deen was initially scheduled to appear on the show hosted by Matt Lauer on Friday, but she backed out citing exhaustion. Wednesday’s show is expected to feature a candid, no-holds-barred conversation where Deen addresses the scandal over her admission of using the N-word in the past.
“This is her make-or-break moment,” an NBC insider told New York Daily News. “This can destroy the legacy she spent so many years creating, or she can rise and put the past behind her. America loves to forgive, and if she speaks from the heart, the producers will be happy.”
The report added that Deen has hired the services of Rose Group, which takes up scandal cases, after her YouTube apology video failed to impress people.
However, prewritten statements composed by public relations officials are not going to help Deen, the source added.
“She knows exactly what this interview is about. She knows why she’s been asked to do this interview, and although Matt is fair, he certainly doesn’t shy away form [sic] asking the right questions.”
Deen has a lot riding on this interview. She has already been dropped by the Food Network, and Smithfield Foods, for which Deen was a spokesperson, cut off ties with the chef. QVC, a tele-shopping channel that sells Deen’s cookbooks and cookware, is said to be reviewing its relationship with the chef.
"We are closely monitoring these events and the ongoing litigation. We are reviewing our business relationship with Ms. Deen, and in the meantime, we have no immediate plans to have her appear on QVC," the company said in a statement cited by USA Today.
Keerthi Mohan is an IBTimes reporter covering entertainment and human interest stories.