"I've had to hold friends in my arms while they've sobbed because they know what's been said about me is not true and I'm having to comfort them," she said.
Looking distressed and with her voice breaking, Deen said if there was someone in the audience who had never said something they wished they could take back, "please pick up that stone and throw it as hard at my head so it kills me. I want to meet you. I want to meet you." It's an apparent reference to the Biblical passage about whether a woman guilty of adultery should be stoned: "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her."
"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."
An uncomfortable Lauer tried to end the interview, but Deen repeated that anyone who hasn't sinned should attack her.
Asked by Lauer whether she had any doubt that blacks consider use of the N-word offensive, Deen said: "I don't know, Matt. I have asked myself that so many times, because it is so distressing to go into my kitchen and hear" what some young people are telling each other.
Deen said she appreciated fans who have expressed anger at the Food Network for dropping her, but said she didn't support a boycott of the network. Through social media, the network has been attacked by people who said executives there acted in haste to get rid of Deen.
Save for the brief announcement late Friday that it wasn't renewing Deen's contract, Food Network executives have refused to discuss the case publicly or say whether the network plans to address Deen's fans. There have been online reports that the Food Network removed Deen's programs from the air as early as Saturday; the network wouldn't speak about what it has or hasn't put on the air.
Starting last weekend, there has been a steady erosion of support for the network. The YouGov Brandindex, a measurement of how consumers perceive a particular company or product, said the Food Network's score -- which had been generally positive -- had dropped by 82 percent in a week. The network has a negative image in the South and West, spokesman Drew Kerr said.
Deen's case has also attracted some odd bedfellows. Conservative commentator Glenn Beck said the network has "contributed to the growing un-American atmosphere of fear and silence. Hello, Joseph McCarthy."
Meanwhile, liberal HBO host Bill Maher also said Deen shouldn't lose her show. "It's a wrong word, she's wrong to use it," he said. "But do we really have to make people go away?"
The Food Channel, a food marketing agency based in Springfield, Mo., said it has been flooded with angry messages from people mistaking the company for the Food Network. There have been so many that the agency posted a message to Deen on its website that it would be happy to work with her if possible.
Among the companies expressing support for her via her representatives was Club Marketing Services in Bentonville, Ark., which helps companies sell products at Wal-Mart, and Epicurean Butter.