laila_ali_21*All we can say is, Harvey Levin and TMZ better be glad Laila Ali is feeling lady-like these days; ’cause awhile back she might’ve given ’em the old one-two, heeve-ho!

The former boxer, now wife and mother, says the celebrity gossip site took her words totally out of context, when they caught her on camera recently and asked about Paula Deen‘s use of the n-word. She spoke to commentator Jacque Reid on the Tom Joyner Morning Show recently, and cleared the air around the controversy.

Ali says she was referring to Deen’s cooking ability in the TMZ interview, not her use of the n-word, and she wants folks to know that she does not support Deen’s actions.

Ali exclusively told Reid, “It really didn’t surprise me that she used the n-word or maybe even still uses it, you know she’s an older woman from the deep south and she was probably brought up using the n-word as a regular part of conversation.”

On July 30, TMZ posted a brief conversation between Ali and a member of their paparazzi team. Ali answered questions about Paula Deen’s use of the n-word and from that exchange TMZ posted a headline that read “Laila Ali I’m Still In Paula Deen’s Corner.” Ali, however, claims the gossip site completely twisted her words to create a “juicy” story” and she was shocked when she saw the finished product.

“I stopped in my tracks, like wait a minute, no they didn’t,” she told Reid, adding, “That wasn’t the place and time that I really wanted to get into how I feel about the whole Paula Deen situation, so I was being very vague on purpose, so for them to have said that was very irritating.”

The boxer believes TMZ fabricated the headline for a better story.

“If you watch the video,” she explains, “they obviously completely exaggerated and made up the headline which did not match my words. I guess what I said wasn’t juicy enough for them.”

Laila says that just because Deen may have grown up around the word, doesn’t give her a pass or excuse her actions today:  “as an adult she [Deen] should know better than to use any sort of racist or highly offensive, disrespectful language to refer to black people or anyone for that matter.”

She also says that had she known of Deen’s use of the racial epithet she would never have been a guest on the chef’s now cancelled cooking show:

“Well, you know, I’m a big person of character and integrity.  And, you know, if I would’ve known that Paula Deen used racial language to describe black folks I would’ve never agreed to be a guest on her show. But the fact of the matter is, you know, I already was on the show. So, you know, like I said, I’m not surprised, but I’m not saying it’s okay…I just wasn’t surprised. And I’m like I feel a lot of people probably use that word behind closed doors.”

TMZ has not rescinded the original story, nor has Ali reached out to them…yet.

There is an “up” side to this though. With Paula out of the way, Laila, who is quite the chef herself, may have room for the cooking show she has always wanted.

Hmmmm…what’s that we’re smellin’…Could it be a dish called sweet success?

Here’s Laila’s interview with TMZ: