June 26, 2013 at 5:31 AM ET
On Wednesday, Paula Deen appeared on TODAY with Matt Lauer to address the scandal over revelations that she had used racial slurs in the past. Her apology and explanation for her behavior was lengthy, but opinions are split over how effective her 13-minute mea culpa really was.
"She appeared very genuine," said Lily Golightly, owner and publicist with New York-based Golightly Media. "Her YouTube videos were kind of strange, and this interview should have cleared things up."
Unfortunately for Deen, the interview may have had the opposite effect.
David E. Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision, a public relations and branding agency, calls her appearance a "non-apology" of Nixonian proportions. "(Former President Richard Nixon) never apologized by saying he was guilty or wrong about Watergate; she was the same way," he said.
And Golightly admits, "Toward the end it was kind of bizarre."
"From a PR aspect, what people wanted to know is -- could there be any more fallout, any more shoes to drop," he says. But Deen's categorically saying she'd never used the N-word other than what has already been discussed was a terrible move. "From a PR standpoint, that's a horrendous scandal. Now if anyone ever comes out with anything, ever caught her on a cell phone making a racial slur, she's done."
Other low points, according to Johnson:
The fate of Deen's star power and her cooking empire remains to be seen; the apology (or lack thereof) could mean the difference between Paula Deen rising again or not. A successful mea culpa may put famous faces back into the public eye, though rarely without tarnish. Think of Bill Clinton, Tiger Woods, Alec Baldwin -- they've all been involved with scandals of varying degree and complexities, yet they all have returned to a place where they're accepted if not celebrated.
Deen seems to have done enough, according to some fans, who Tweeted post-interview with their support:
For other fans, reaction was a little more mixed.
So what can Deen do next? Golightly says she still has a few more steps to take.
"She needs to do something good now," she explains. "You have to outweigh the bad with good. She needs to come out on the other side and start inspiring social change. As an international businesswoman, she has the power to do that."
But in Johnson's perception, it's over. "There are some people who will still go crazy over Paula Deen, but the brand as we knew it is gone forever," he said. "She can't resurrect it -- and it's all due to the failed apology. Watching her on TODAY, she clearly doesn't understand the changes that have gone on in civil society. The apology has done her in."