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King was praised for remaining calm during the sit-down, which saw an emotional Kelly rise from his seat and tower over the CBS anchor as he screamed and cried about his innocence into the camera.
“I could see him getting more heated, he was upset with me about some of the questions — that’s OK — he was a little irritated, and that’s OK,” she said of what was going through her mind during the interview. “So when I see Robert [Kelly] getting really upset, and he stands out of his seat, my initial reaction was, ‘Oh god, please don’t leave, please don’t leave.'”
So, she said, she decided to remain calm. “If we had both gotten emotional and amped up like that, what good would have come of that?” she explained.
The CBS This Morning sit-down marked the first time Kelly has spoken out since the headline-making sexual abuse allegations against him premiered on Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly in January. Kelly has consistently denied the claims and pleaded not guilty after he was charged in Chicago on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse on Feb. 22. He is due back in court March 22.
When asked if she was ever fearful of her safety during the interview, she said that she wasn’t, but explained, “If you could have seen the thought bubble it would have been ‘Ruh roh, please sit back down, you’re looking a little crazy right now, please sit down.'”
Colbert wasn’t the only television personality impressed with King’s composure. King was even praised by Fox News’ Jesse Watters, who said “hats off” to her for the interview with Kelly and “for totally redeeming herself after the [Jussie] Smollett fiasco.” The comment spurred backlash, because Watters mistook King for Robin Roberts, who was the one who actually conducted the Smollett interview on Good Morning America. (Watters later apologized.)
Addressing Watters’ mistake, King says she “couldn’t believe this.” “I normally don’t watch Fox News unless I’m curious to see what’s going on, what other people are thinking,” King explained, adding that she personally emailed Fox News’ Dana Perino to thank her after seeing that she corrected Watters for his mistake on-air. “Could you let the rest of your colleagues know that all black people do not look alike?” King said she told Perino, to which the audience erupted into applause.
Later in the interview, Colbert asked the anchor if she thought it was possible to still enjoy the music of Kelly and Michael Jackson in light of the allegations against them.
“For me it’s hard to separate it now and I think that you have to decide for yourself what you want to do, but these are different times and we are hearing it now with different ears. We are paying attention to it in a way that we haven’t paid attention to it before,” she said.
During King’s follow-up interview with the two women who live with him, Joycelyn Savage and Azriel Clary, King had said on CBS This Morning that Kelly was present during the interview, despite his team previously agreeing that he would not be, and that he tried to end King’s interview with the women several times.
When speaking out after the first part of her interview aired, King said that she was not scared during the sit-down with Kelly, but that she thought he might accidentally hit her because he was “so angry that he was flailing,” she told O, The Oprah Magazine, where she is editor-at-large. “I was more worried that he was going to get up and leave. So what I was really thinking to myself was: I’m not done with this interview, so I’m going to let him have his moment.”
King has said it was Kelly’s team who reached out to her with the idea for the embattled singer to do his first interview since his arrest. King, who had met Kelly in passing before, had 15 minutes alone with him before the cameras started rolling and his team told her only two things were off the table: questions about the late singer Aaliyah, who was allegedly married to Kelly, and the new charges since the court case is active. King ended up sitting down with Kelly for nearly 80 minutes and CBS is airing an expanded special in primetime on Friday night.
Kelly, whose legal name is Robert Kelly, was also taken back into custody on Wednesday after a child-support hearing and remained in Cook County jail on Thursday. On Thursday, CBS aired the part of King’s sit-down with Kelly where he addressed his financials and family situation. Kelly, who also spent the Feb. 23 weekend in jail when he couldn’t meet bail, once again grew heated as he accused his ex-wife Andrea Kelly of lying about her claims that he abused her.
“I had some reservations because I was thinking ‘What are we gonna get? He’s just going to deny it!'” Kelly told O about her expectations. “But I did it because I at least thought there would be some, if not contrition, then at least acknowledgement that ‘This is a bad situation, and I have made some mistakes.’ But instead, he seems to believe everyone is out to get him — that everyone is after money or book deals or TV deals, and that even the parents of these women are lying. As you saw, he says he’s only guilty of one thing: having a big heart.”
King said on CBS Evening News that Kelly’s camp was “pleased” with her interview after the first part aired on Wednesday. “They thought it gave Robert a chance to tell his story,” she said.
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