Paula Deen, the disgraced TV chef who broke into tears on the "Today" show this morning, has relied on her Los Angeles PR firm The Rose Group and brought in additional counsel since the crisis sparked by her admission to using a racial epithet in a deposition.
Deen has brought in crisis guru Judy Smith (first reported by the NY Post) to bolster her image rehabilitation in the past few days.
Smith, who notably counseled Jill Kelley, a woman involved in the Gen. David Petraeus scandal, last year, runs Smith & Co. in Washington.
The 12-year-old Rose Group is led by Jeff Rose, an entertainment PR alum of Porter Novelli, BWR and Miramax Films, and Elana Weiss-Rose. The firm started working with Deen two years ago after her split with longtime publicist Nancy Assuncao.
[Assuncao parted with Deen after disagreeing with Deen's decision to become a paid spokeswoman for the diabetes drug Victoza. "I couldn't understand why they thought this was really good for the brand," Assuncao told the New York Daily News last year.]
The Associated Press said Deen appeared "distressed and her voice breaking" during her "Today" appearance June 26, while host Matt Lauer was "uncomfortable" and tried to end the interview. "I is what I is and I'm not changing," Deen said. "There's someone evil out there that saw what I worked for and wanted it."
Deen had previously pulled the plug on a "Today" appearance scheduled for June 21.
Mark Pasetsky, who runs New York-based Mark Allen & Co., told USAToday.com that Deen's "Today" appearance fell short of her likely PR goals. "She really needed to take full responsibility for what she said and it appeared to me that the strategy for this interview was to be pointing the fingers rather than to take responsibility for the words she admitted to using."
On a day when the Supreme Court overturned a law banning gay marriage under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, Deen told Lauer, "I believe that every creature on this Earth, every one of God's creatures, was created equal. ...I believe that everyone ought to be treated equal."
The bolstered PR may already be paying dividends as USA Today reports this afternoon that a total of nine companies have voiced support for Deen, including Tasty Blends Foods, Landies Candies and Springer Mountain Farms.
Caesars Entertainment said it would not renew a pact naming four Deen-themed restaurants after her.
Deen has also lost her Food Network show and a sponsorship deal with Smithfield Foods.
Novo Nordisk, which manufactures the Victoza drug, said in a statement that it has discussed her comments with Deen, adding, "While she takes a more proactive approach to clearing up her comments, our focus will continue to be to provide the best care possible to all of our patients where we work and live."
Deen's "Today" appearance was preceded last week by two YouTube videos in which she apologized and asked for forgiveness for using the racial epithet.