Gayle King is responding to backlash over a controversial question.
During an interview with former WNBA player Lisa Leslie about the legacy of her friend Kobe Bryant, King brought up a sensitive subject: The basketball legend’s 2003 rape charge.
The criminal case against Bryant was dropped on Sept. 1, 2004, after the accuser declined to testify. In August of that year, the woman filed a civil lawsuit, which was settled out of court on March 2, 2005.
In a two-part video posted to Twitter, the “CBS This Morning” host discussed the controversy.
“If I had only seen the clip that you saw, I would be extremely angry with me too. 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,” she explained.
She said that she was “advised to say nothing,” but that wasn’t “good enough for (her).”
“I wanted to get Lisa’s take on it as a friend who knew him well. What she thought, where that would stand,” she said. “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 that alone and back off. During the course of the interview, I asked follow-up questions because I wanted to make sure her position and perspective were very clear.”
She added that she talked to Leslie Wednesday night and “believes (she) was OK with the interview” before pointing fingers at the network again.
“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 is something I’m going to have to deal with them,” she said.
King said she had spent time with Bryant on “many social occasions,” describing him as “kind and warm,” and is still mourning his loss.
“The last thing I would want to do is disparage him at this particular time,” she added. “I hope people understand that.”
Before posting the video, King responded to criticism in a statement to USA TODAY.
“I understand why people are upset seeing that clip out of context,” she said. “I hope they will now watch the entire wide-ranging interview. We asked a longtime friend of Kobe Bryant’s to talk to us about his legacy and their friendship and Lisa Leslie did exactly that.”
About halfway through the interview, King brought up the allegation against Bryant.
“It’s been said that his legacy is complicated because of a sexual assault charge,” King asked in the interview, published Tuesday. “Is it complicated for you as a woman, as a WNBA player?”
“It’s not complicated for me at all,” Leslie replied. “I just never have ever seen him being the kind of person that would do something to violate a woman or be aggressive in that way. That was just never the person that I know.”Click to expand
King had follow-up comments.
“But Lisa, you wouldn’t see it, though,” she said. “As his friend, you wouldn’t see it.”
“And that’s possible,” replied Leslie. “I just don’t believe that.”
King then asked if it’s “even a fair question to talk about” the accusation, “considering he’s no longer with us and that it was resolved,” or if it is “really part of his history.”
According to Leslie, the media “should be more respectful at this time.”
“If you had questions about it, you’ve had many years to ask him that,” she continued. “I don’t think it’s something that we should keep hanging over his legacy.”
Bryant died on Jan. 26 in a helicopter crash along with eight others, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna,. In heavy fog and with no radio connection to the controller, likely blocked by the mountains in low altitude, the helicopter crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, California.
King’s line of questioning struck a chord on Twitter, with many criticizing the journalist as disrespectful.
Among King’s critics was rapper 50 Cent.
“what is this, wait somebody gotta help me understand why they keep doing this,” he wrote, along with a clip from the interview. “i apologize for my language in advance let’s talk about this.”
over the clip, the rapper can be heard saying, “That’s not complicated. You just said it was dismissed… Then how would you see it, Gayle? How the (expletive) would you see it, (expletive)?”
According to user @thehoracetowns, journalists “lack class.”
“Gayle King and Oprah seem to go after certain stories without class, but ignore the stories involving their Hollywood friends,” he wrote. “You bring up something about Kobe right after his death for ratings or relevance? Kobe Bryant has passed away”
User @CokeDir wrote that King “had MANY years to ask Kobe Bryant about the whole sexual assault case.”
“Too soon for that (expletive),” he continued. “Let the legend Rest In Peace. Smh.”