Denise Martin admits she’s a janitor, apologizes for being unintentionally “misleading”

In an interview this morning on The Early Show, Survivor China contestant Denise Martin admitted that she was not a lunch lady, and apologized for her comments during the live reunion Sunday.

She appeared with her boss, school superintendent Nancy Lane, who challenged Denise’s story in a statement on Monday. Today, she said that Denise has been a janitor since March 30, having applied for that position last January. Denise admitted that was true, but said, “When I was on Survivor, I wanted to go to back to my original lunch lady job, and I did everything I could. I tried to talk to the food service director … and tried to go back to my original job. … I loved that job, it was one of the most favorite parts of my life. … When I was away from my family so long, I just wanted to go back to the way things were before I was on the night shift.”

Denise said when she asked for her lower-paying lunch lady job back, “I was told that I could not have my old job back. They didn’t give me any particular reason, they just said no.” But Lane said that “Denise has not had a conversation with either [her or the other executive in charge of personnel decisions]. Yesterday was the first I had heard that she’d expressed an interest. But she can’t return to a position that’s not available, and that position isn’t available; there’s no opening there.”

Denise said that her comments Sunday night, when she said that her current fame has kept her on the night shift (“I miss dinner with my family”), were not a calculated effort on her part to lie. “It was not my attention to be misleading. … Nancy has been outstanding to me,” she said. “I’m sorry, and I apologize to everybody. Believe me, if none of this had happened, I couldn’t say I’m sorry enough.”

While she clearly left out some pertinent details on Sunday night, like the fact that she wasn’t denied a return to her old job but was actually reinstated to the same job she had before she left to film the series, Denise’s version of the story today and Sunday don’t contradict one another.

So what of the $50,000 promised by executive producer Mark Burnett? When Julie Chen asked about it (Twice! She really can be a journalist if she wants to.), Denise avoided the question, repeating that it wasn’t her intention to mislead people and saying that her experience with CBS had been positive. In other words, she’s probably going to take the money if it’s still offered.

Did Survivor Lunch Lady Lie? [The Early Show]

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.