Oprah Winfrey befriended Paula Deen when she interviewed the butter-loving cook for an episode of Oprah's Next Chapter in March 2012. The talk show host even spent the night at Deen's Georgia home, where the women discussed everything from Deen's financial insecurities to her diabetes diagnosis.
More than a year later, in a videotaped deposition, Deen admitted to once using the N-word in the past. The 66-year-old Southerner was subsequently fired by the Food Network and lost multiple endorsement deals. Until recently, Winfrey had remained silent on her friend's latest controversy.
"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," Winfrey, 59, tells Entertainment Tonight. "In time she will be fine. For me, it all just felt kind of sad."
Winfrey believes people need to let the "dust settle" before they can have a "real conversation" about racism in today's world. While the TV titan hasn't been subjected to racial epithets in years, she has experienced racism in the workplace.
"Nobody in their right mind is going to call me the N-word. You know, you see those fools on Twitter sometime say ridiculous things. But nobody in their right mind is going to do that to my face, because true racism is being able to have power over somebody else," Winfrey explains. "So that doesn't happen to me that way."
The Butler star continues, "It shows up for me if I'm in a boardroom or situations where I'm the only woman or I'm the only African American person within a hundred mile radius. 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. But I can never tell, 'Is it racism? Is it sexism?'"
When asked to comment about Deen during an interview with Extra, Winfrey laughed but declined to say anything more about the disgraced TV personality. "Oh my god! I don't have anything to do with Paula Deen," she insisted. "She is not the first white lady to use the N-word! Good lord!"