Oprah Winfrey is finally weighing in on Paula Deen's racial slur scandal, and some are wondering why it took her so long. In an interview with "Entertainment Tonight," the talk show queen -- who once had a slumber party at the fallen celebrity chef's Georgia home -- said, "I think Paula Deen was sort of used as a symbol, but I think lots of people use the word inappropriately all the time."
The talk show queen revealed she did try to reach out to the former Food Network star earlier: "In the very first days I tried to reach her and then I decided to stay out of it as I saw it blowing up," she said. "In time she will be fine. For me, it all just felt kind of sad."
While Oprah added, "Nobody in their right mind is going to call me the N-word," she admitted that she recently experienced racism while shopping in Zurich, when a boutique worker assumed she couldn't afford an expensive handbag. She added that she sometimes feels it in situations where she is the only woman or African American person in a boardroom. "I can see in the energy of the people there, they don't sense that I should be holding one of those seats. I can sense that," she said. "But I can never tell, 'Is it racism? Is it sexism?'"
Oprah has her own personal policy on use of the offensive word. Last month she told Parade, "You cannot be my friend and use that word around me. It shows my age, but I feel strongly about it. I always think of the millions of people who heard that as their last word as they were hanging from a tree."
Still, the OWN head honcho's name has been brought up several times in the weeks following Deen's admission to using the racial slur three decades ago.
In an interview with "Entertainment Tonight," talk show host Wendy Williams said, "It's just a shame to hear that [Deen] has admitted in her deposition that she uses the word and that she freely throws around racist jokes… It just goes to show you money doesn't buy you class, it only exposes who you really are. Stupid is as stupid does."
But Williams also added, "Oprah, believe it or not, is the first person I thought about when I heard this statement. I said 'I wonder if her black friend Oprah knows about this statement?' I wonder if Oprah's been privy in person to hear Paula use this and if she's ever talked to Paula about it."
In June, public relations expert Paul Friederichsen told USA Today that in trying to get her story out, Deen was "making a mess of it" and he indicated there was one person who could possibly help: "You need to sit down with Oprah," he advised Deen. "You need to talk to her. If she will talk with you."
But don't set your DVR for the "Next Chapter" chat just yet. Nothing's been scheduled, although Oprah did say "once the dust settles" around Deen and she's emotionally ready, she'd welcome the opportunity to talk to her on camera. "I just really want to know what happened," she said.
As for now, Oprah seems to have had enough of the Deen talk. While promoting her new flick "The Butler," she told Extra, "Oh my God! I don't have anything to do with Paula Deen. She is not the first white lady to use the N-word! Good Lord!"
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