Feb. 24, 2012 at 10:14 AM ET
When Paula Deen revealed to Al Roker that she had type-2 diabetes in January, response from the public was fast, furious and largely negative.
Now, just over a month later, Deen says that she was taken aback by the reaction.
“I think it was from a few people that were kinda mean about it and hold it against me,” she told TODAY. “But the people that care for me, Al, they came out like you wouldn’t believe, and they were the people that I care about.”
The Food Network star drew criticism for keeping the diagnosis secret for three years, all while promoting her brand of rich, indulgent dishes.
"It took me 20 years to come out and stand up and say, 'Hey, my name's Paula and I'm agoraphobic,'" she said, defending herself to the Associated Press Friday. "I was so ashamed, so embarrassed. So to do it in two-and-a-half years, I thought it was pretty good."
Deen also made her disclosure at the same time she announced her endorsement deal with Nova Nordisk, the pharmaceutical company that supplies her diabetes medication.
On the night of the announcement, in a tweet heard ‘round the world, outspoken chef Anthony Bourdain posted, “Thinking of getting into the leg-breaking business, so I can profitably sell crutches later."
Today, Bourdain had more to say. Referring to Deen's on-air remark, he tweeted, "'Some people were kind(a) mean..' Some people were kind of greedy."
“Top Chef” judge Hugh Acheson, “Bizarre Foods” host Andrew Zimmern and Jose Andres were among the many famous food personalities who publicly chastised Deen for the way she handled the announcement. And Deen’s longtime publicist Nancy Assuncao quit over the controversy.
“It was tough,” Deen’s son Bobby told Roker. “I think that when someone comes out and announces that they have an illness and people pile on, it really says something about maybe who’s doing the talking.”
Deen, 65, added that she has “broad shoulders” to deal with the backlash, and even tried to find a silver lining, calling the fact that she’s lived this long “a blessing.”
“I feel like God has given me a blessing, because my mother and daddy died very young, and I’m so proud that I lived long enough to be a member of the baby boomers and to have to deal with something like this,” she said.
Deen told the Associated Press that she now plans to include some healthier recipes on her show, "Paula's Home Cooking," but due to production schedules, it may be up to two years before viewers see those episodes.