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Paula Deen to appear on TV's 'Today,' dropped by Smithfield

Food Network personality Paula Deen laughs before throwing out the first pitch prior to the Washington Nationals versus New York Mets MLB ba
Food Network personality Paula Deen laughs before throwing out the first pitch prior to the Washington Nationals versus New York Mets MLB ba

(Reuters) - American celebrity chef Paula Deen, who was dropped by TV's Food Network after she admitted in a lawsuit that she used a racial slur in the past, will appear on NBC-TV's "Today" show on Wednesday after canceling a scheduled interview last week.

The program's anchor, Matt Lauer, said on Monday's show that Deen "told us she will be here this time."

Deen, who withdrew from an interview on June 21, tweeted, "See you Wednesday, I am so glad Matt, Al and my friends at @TodayShow are bringing me back."

The program did not say if Deen would address the controversy.

Deen, 66, apologized in videos posted online for using a racial slur, but Food Network later said it would not renew the Southern chef's contract when it expired at the end of June.

Pork producer Smithfield Foods Inc on Monday also dropped Deen, who had a name-brand line of hams with the company, saying in a statement that it "condemns the use of offensive and discriminatory language and behavior of any kind."

The controversy surrounding Deen began last week when a deposition taken as part of a lawsuit was released in which Deen, who is white, was asked if she had used the "N-word," and responded, "Yes, of course.

Deen, who has built a business empire based on high-calorie and fried Southern food with cookbooks, restaurants and kitchen supplies, made the comments in a deposition related to a racial and sexual discrimination lawsuit filed by a former employee.

The former employee of Paula Deen Enterprises, Lisa Jackson, is suing Deen and her brother, Earl "Bubba" Hiers, over allegations that while discussing plans for Hiers' 2007 wedding, Deen said she wanted a "true southern plantation-style wedding."

Jackson said that Deen used the slur in the discussion describing how she wanted an all-black wait staff for the party dressed in "long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties, you know in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around," she said, according to the lawsuit.

The Food Network is owned by Scripps Network Interactive Inc, while Chinese meat company Shuanghui International hopes to buy Smithfield, the world's largest pork producer and processor, for $4.7 billion in what would be the biggest takeover of a U.S. company by a Chinese firm.

That deal is expected to close in the second half of 2013.

(Reporting by Eric Kelsey, Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and Cynthia Osterman)

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