Oprah Winfrey befriended Paula Deen in early 2012 and even spent a night at Deen's Georgia home, where she conducted a wide-ranging interview.
Over a year later, in a deposition for a lawsuit, Deen admitted using racial slurs in the past, a revelation that rankled many, including her friend.
Until now, Winfrey had remained silent on her friend's controversy, but addressed it this week during a sit-down of her own for her new film The Butler.
"In the very first days I tried to reach her and then I decided to stay out of it as I saw it blowing up," Winfrey told ET this week. "In time she will be fine."
"For me, it all just felt kind of sad."
Oprah's feelings on the n-word are very clear, but she believes people need to let the "dust settle" before they can have a "real conversation" about race.
She says she is well aware of racism today, even if she's reached the point where at times it's less overt than for other women who are minorities.
"You know, you see those fools on Twitter sometime say ridiculous things," Winfrey says. "Nobody in their right mind is going to call me the N-word."
"But nobody in their right mind is going to do that to my face, because true racism is being able to have power over somebody else," Winfrey explains.
"So that doesn't happen to me that way."
"It shows up for me if I'm in a boardroom or situations where I'm the only woman or I'm the only African American person within a hundred mile radius."
"I can see in the energy of the people, they don't sense that I should be holding one of those seats. I can sense that. But I can never tell, 'Is it racism? Is it sexism?'"
When asked to comment about Deen during another interview with Extra, the 59-year-old laughed and struck a lighter tone than she did with ET.
"Oh my god! I don't have anything to do with Paula Deen," she insisted.
"She is not the first white lady to use the N-word! Good lord!"