Paula Deen on TODAY: ‘I Wouldn’t Fire Me’

"I is what I is, and I'm not changing," the TV cook says in an emotional interview

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Celebrity chef Paula Deen has been in hot water since last week, when a transcript of the TV personality admitting to using the “N word” and talking about planning a plantation-style wedding in a deposition for a workplace discrimination lawsuit surfaced. After blowing off the TODAY show’s Matt Lauer last Friday, and issuing a string of brief YouTube apologies instead, Deen appeared on the program Wednesday morning to say businesses like the Food Network shouldn’t fire her.

(WATCHPaula Deen’s Apology Videos)

She also said she was uncertain about whether or not the “N word” was such a bad word. When Lauer asked, “Do you have any doubt in your mind that African Americans are offended by the ‘N word’?”, Deen replied, “I don’t know, Matt, I have asked myself that many times,” adding that the young people in her kitchens use that word to describe each other all the time.

Reading from Columbia Professor John McWhorter’s viewpoint for TIME Ideas – which gave the cook props for owning up to using the offensive word in the first place – Lauer asked her if she ever considered just lying about saying the “N word.” That’s when she broke down and began telling a story about how her seven-year-old grandson confessed to his parents that she let him stay up past his bedtime. Deen said he told her, “I don’t tell lies.”

(VIEWPOINT: The Food Network Should Give Paula Deen Back Her Job)

The celebrity chef got emotional again when Lauer started talking about all of the support she’s been getting from her fans. Indeed, her sons Jamie and Bobby defended their mother on CNN as the “most compassionate, good-hearted, empathetic people that you’d ever meet.” A “We Support Paula Deen” Facebook page boasts more than 414,000 “likes”, and supporters are speaking out via #TeamPaula and #TeamPaulaDeen hashtags on Twitter. Others have been lining up outside her restaurant in Savannah, Georgia. And now, advanced sales of her upcoming cookbook Paula Deen’s New Testament have skyrocketed; it’s ranked 115th on Amazon compared to 1,592 a couple of days ago, CNN Money reports.

(WATCH: Paula Deen’s Sons Defend Their Mom on CNN)

Addressing her critics, Deen turned to the camera and tearfully insisted on forgiveness, arguing that she is not the first person to say something controversial:

“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 is what I is, and I’m not changing.”

MORE: Less Than Accidental Racist: Why Paula Deen’s Comments Insult Her Fans Too