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Lauer direct, strong in Deen interview

By Alan Pergament

Matt was great, Paula left me as cold as a plate of cucumber salad.

But truthfully, it is a lot easier judging the performance of a broadcast journalist than knowing what is in the heart of a celebrity trying to recover from a scandal.

On that score, "Today" co-host Matt Lauer did a masterful job this morning interviewing cooking star Paula Deen about her recent fall from grace after admitting in a court deposition that she used a racist slur decades ago.

Lauer was respectful, persistent and fair in questioning whether Deen's recent apologies were motivated by business reasons more than anything. He smartly interrupted Deen and steered the conversation back to the issues when she appeared to be delivering talking points given to her by a crisis management consultant. And he directly asked her the tough questions – whether she is a racist and whether she would have fired herself. She said no to both questions.  

And how did Deen do?

Let’s just say she tried to explain away her remarks and said people were telling lies about her. I couldn't watch the 15 minutes or so without wondering how "Saturday Night Live" would have handled her performance and her light touch of Lauer's knee as she answered one question. I sure wished the late-night show wasn't on hiatus in the summer.

You might have expected her to be more passionate in saying "no, I’m not" when Lauer asked her if she was a racist.

Her claim that she only used the offensive slur once and that was more than 30 years ago when a gun was pointed at her head undoubtedly will get the most post-interview scrutiny. If that is the case, you wonder why she said "of course" in the deposition when asked if she ever used the word.

She cried a few times, most notably when talking about her seven-year-old grandson explaining to her that "I don’t tell lies."

The remark came after Lauer asked her if she ever wished "she fudged the truth" in that deposition.

In the end, Deen told viewers if anyone is out there who has never said something they could take back then they should kill her with the stone.

"I is what I is and I’m not changing," said Deen.

That was hardly the line she should have ended with. Once again, the "stone" phrase seemed to be something given to her by a crisis management team.

I’m not going to fudge my view here. Deen said she isn't an actress. That’s the one thing she said that I tend to believe.

Despite the explanations, despite the tears, her performance left me as cold as a stone. But I'm  sure others felt differently.

Thanks to a Gusto blog item by Colin Dabkowski Tuesday, I tuned into "America’s Got Talent" Tuesday in time to catch Buffalo-based artist Aneya Marie’s performance as a singing mime.

The brief blog made me think that she was going to have a tough time selling that idea so I wasn’t surprised the judges had enough a few second into her act.

"The singing wasn't good, the mime was good, it wasn't good, but she had a lot of self-confidence," concluded judge Howie Mandel.

Heidi Klum was the last of the four judges to buzz Marie off and that was only because "I could not hear her, everyone (in the audience) was booing."

As she departed, Marie delivered some shots at the judges and the audience before exiting by saying "sorry you didn’t understand and one day I will teach you."

She was followed by a series of equally bad performances by people who wanted their few minutes of fame.

I wonder how Mandel, Klum, Mel B and Howard Stern and the audience would have rated Deen’s performance this morning if she had gone on "AGT" instead of "Today."

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Celebrity News | Television | TV news
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