Gayle King has spoken out in response to the widespread backlash she received on social media after she asked WNBA star Lisa Leslie about the sexual assault charges once waged against Kobe Bryant.
In an interview that aired on Tuesday, King talked to Leslie on “CBS This Morning” about the late NBA legend ― who was killed in a helicopter crash last month ― and his 2003 sexual assault charge; she asked if Leslie, as a fellow basketball legend and a woman, felt that the charge (which was later dismissed) complicated his legacy.
“It’s not complicated for me at all,” explained Leslie, who said Bryant wasn’t the “kind of person that would... do something to violate a woman or be aggressive in that way.”
“That’s just not the person that I know,” she told King.
King later asked Leslie if she thought that even addressing that part of Bryant’s history was “fair.” To that, Leslie said that she believed the media should be more respectful about it.
“If you had questions about it, you had many years to ask him that. I don’t think it’s something that we should keep hanging over his legacy,” she said.
After the interview aired, many people on social media had what The Root best described as “widespread disdain for King even asking the question.”
On Thursday, King posted a two-part video explaining her side of things, namely that the snippet that went viral was “taken out of context.”
“I know that if I had only seen the clip that you saw, I’d be extremely angry with me too. I am mortified. I’m 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,” explained King.
The 65-year-old goes on to say she was advised to say nothing, but “that’s not good enough for me” because she wants viewers to understand what happened.
King explained that she and Leslie talked at length about Bryant’s career, his passion, sense of humor, mentoring abilities and more.
“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,” she said.
The CBS host said she wanted the court case discussion to be included in the aired interview because she felt Leslie’s comments “put a nice button on that part of the [public] conversation.”
“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. That’s something I’m going to have to deal with them. There will be a very intense discussion about that,” said King.
King then talked about her own personal interactions with Bryant and how she remembered him as “very kind and very warm.”
“I too am mourning his loss just like everybody else. 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. I hope people understand that,” she said, ending her video by saying that there was “no disrespect intended.”
The controversy with King comes on the heels of the public grappling with their grief for Bryant and how to contend with his controversial history. Outside of King, reporter Felicia Sonmez at the Washington Post gained notoriety in the wake of Bryant’s death because she posted a link on Twitter in the hours after he died to a 2016 Daily Beast article that detailed the sexual assault allegations waged against him.
In response to her tweet, The Post’s executive editor, Martin Baron, told her that she would be placed on leave, and the paper was subsequently criticized for how they handled the situation.