Paula Deen

(CNN) -- Celebrity chef Paula Deen, facing allegations of racism that have caused parts of her empire to crumble, slammed what she called "horrible, horrible lies" about her in an emotional, nationally televised interview Wednesday.

"I believe that every creature on this Earth, every one of God's creatures, was created equal," she told NBC's "Today" show. "... I believe that everyone ought to be treated equal."

Deen was raised to never be unkind to anyone, she said.

"I've had to hold friends in my arms while they've sobbed," Deen said, crying. "Because they know what's being said about me -- it's not true. And I'm having to comfort them, and tell them it's going to be all right. If God got us to it, he'll get us through it."

Photos: Southern TV chef Paula Deen

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The accusations against Deen stem from a lawsuit filed by a former manager of Deen's restaurants in Savannah, Georgia. Lisa T. Jackson's lawsuit alleges that Deen and her brother, Bubba Hier, committed numerous acts of violence, discrimination and racism that resulted in the end of Jackson's five-year tenure at Deen's Lady & Sons and Uncle Bubba's Oyster House eateries in Savannah.

Deen rejects the allegations.

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