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06/28/2013 04:33 pm ET

Jimmy Carter Defends Paula Deen In CNN Interview (VIDEO)

In a CNN interview Friday, former President Jimmy Carter came to the defense of embattled chef Paula Deen, whose food empire has crumbled in the wake of a polarizing racism scandal.

Deen and Carter both grew up in rural towns in Georgia, about 40 miles apart. "Turns out, that they are actually good friends," said CNN's Suzanne Malveaux.

"She was maybe excessively honest in saying that she had in the past, 30 years ago, used this terrible word," Carter told CNN. "I think she has been punished, perhaps overly severely, for her honesty in admitting it and for the use of the word in the distant past. She's apologized profusely."

Carter said that he advised her to "let the dust settle and to make apologies." "My heart goes out her," he said, "but, of course, there's no condoning the use of a word that abuses other people."

Watch President Carter's interview above.

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