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Gayle King on Thursday morning took to social media to express her disappointment in CBS after the network shared a small portion of her interview with Kobe Bryant’s friend and former WNBA star Lisa Leslie, in which it appeared that King unnecessarily questioned Leslie about the late basketball player’s rape trial.
“I’ve been up reading the comments about the interview I did with Lisa Leslie about Kobe Bryant, and I know that if I had only seen the clip that you saw, I’d be extremely angry with me too,” King said in an Instagram video, posted before going on air for CBS This Morning. “I am mortified. I am embarrassed and I am very angry. Unbeknownst to me, my network put up a clip from a very wide-ranging interview — totally taken out of context — and when you see it that way, it’s very jarring. It’s jarring to me. I didn’t even know anything about it.”
In the clip, King spoke with Leslie about Bryant’s sexual assault case. (A 19-year-old female hotel concierge accused Bryant of raping her in 2003; the case was settled out of court in 2005.) Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others were killed in a Jan. 26 Calabasas, California, helicopter crash, leaving public figures and fans mourning the tragic loss. (Watch the full interview here.)
“It’s been said that his legacy is complicated, because of a sexual assault charge that was dismissed in 2003, 2004. Is it complicated for you, as a woman, as a WNBA player?” King asked Leslie, to which she replied, “It’s not complicated for me at all. … I just never see — have ever seen him being the kind of person that would be — do something to violate a woman or be aggressive in that way. That’s just not the person that I know.”
King then followed up with, “But Lisa, you wouldn’t see it though. As his friend, you wouldn’t see it.”
Both fans and stars found King’s questioning disrespectful, with notable names such as Snoop Dogg and Vivica A. Fox criticizing the CBS This Morning co-anchor. “We expect more from you, Gayle,” Snoop Dogg said in a heated Instagram video. “How dare you try to tarnish my homeboy’s reputation.”
Wrote Fox, “Waking up to this interview and was just really pissed off! LIKE YO! I realize folks gotta do they job but this is just disrespectful in my opinion #CLOUTCHASER.”
In her Thursday morning video, King explained, “I started getting calls. ‘What the hell are you doing? Why did you say this? What is happening?’ I did not know what people were talking about. So I’ve been told, been advised, to say nothing, just let it go. ‘People will drag you, people will troll you, it’ll be over in a couple of days.’ But that’s not good enough for me because I really want people to understand what happened here and how I’m feeling about it.”
She continued, “I reached out to Lisa — because I know she’s a longtime friend of Kobe’s — to talk about his legacy and their friendship. We had a really wide-ranging interview, talked about many things: his career, his passion, his sense of humor, the way he was mentoring other people, how he was starting his next chapter, it was wide-ranging. And yes, we talked about that court case because that court case has also come up. And I wanted to get Lisa’s take on it as a friend who knew him well, what she thought, where that should stand. It was very powerful when she looked me in the eye, as a member of the media, to say, ‘It’s time for the media to leave it alone and to back off.'”
King elaborated, “During the course of the interview I asked follow-up questions because I wanted to make sure her position and perspective were very clear, and at the end when she said, ‘It’s time to leave it alone,’ as I said, I thought that was powerful and I insisted that that part be in the interview because I thought it put a nice button on that part of the conversation.”
King never imagined CBS would post the clip “out of context,” and said she plans to have a “very intense discussion” with the network.
“I felt really good about the interview, … so for the network to take the most salacious part when taken out of context, and put it up online for people who didn’t see the whole interview, is very upsetting to me and that’s something I’m going to have to deal with with them. There will be a very intense discussion about that,” she said.
“I also want to say this. I have been with Kobe Bryant on many social occasions. He was very kind and very warm to me and I felt we had a friendly relationship. I, too, am mourning his loss just like everybody else,” King concluded. “I still am shocked by it. It’s tragic and untimely and the last thing I would want to do is disparage him at this particular time, … and that’s why I’m taking this time to speak to you directly, I’ve never done one of these before, but this is so important to me that I felt I had to say something. I don’t want to sit up on a set and read a prepared remark. I wanted you to hear exactly where I’m coming from and how I’m feeling, and to let everybody know that no disrespect [was] intended. … I thank you for listening.”
CBS News responded to the outcry as well in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “Gayle conducted a thoughtful, wide-ranging interview with Lisa Leslie about the legacy of Kobe Bryant,” said a spokesperson. “An excerpt was posted that did not reflect the nature and tone of the full interview. We are addressing the internal process that led to this and changes have already been made.”
On Friday, during an appearance on NBC’s Today show, King’s pal Oprah Winfrey said the CBS This Morning anchor is “not doing well” after receiving death threats over the interview, and now has to travel with security.
“She feels that she was put in a really terrible position because that interview had already ran, and in the context of the interview, everyone seemed fine, including Lisa Leslie,” Winfrey said. “And it was only because somebody at the network put up that clip, and I could see how people would obviously be very upset if you thought that Gayle was just trying to press to get an answer from Lisa Leslie.”
She continued, “Obviously all things pass, she will be OK, but she hasn’t slept in two days. I think anybody can criticize anything, but the misogynist vitriol and the attacking to the point where it is dangerous to be in the streets alone … because it’s the other people who take that message and feel like they can do whatever they want to because of it.”
Former national security advisor Susan Rice also came to King’s defense against comments by Snoop Dogg on Friday. “This is despicable. Gayle King is one of the most principled, fair and tough journalists alive,” Rice tweeted. “Snoop, back the **** off. You come for @GayleKing , you come against an army. You will lose, and it won’t be pretty.”
Watch King’s Instagram video below.
Feb. 6, 12 p.m. Updated with statement from CBS News.
Feb. 7, 9:50 a.m. Updated to include Oprah Winfrey’s quotes.
Feb. 8, 10 a.m. Updated to include Susan Rice’s comment.
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