Gayle King Responds To Criticism Of Lisa Leslie Interview Clip On Kobe Bryant: 'I Am Mortified'
The 'CBS This Morning' host received waves of backlash for her questions centered on the late NBA legend.
During a Wednesday episode of CBS This Morning, King sat down with the star where they eventually discussed Bryant's legacy.
King pressed Leslie about her stance on a 2003 case where he was accused of sexual assault.
Many believed King was insistent on tarnishing his legacy through her interrogative questioning about the case.Now, the 65-year-old is saying the network is at fault and the interview clip was taken "out of context."
“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 early Thursday 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.”
She emphasized the two discussed several subjects and the interview was "wide-ranging."
"I wanted to get Lisa's take on it as a friend who knew him well. What she thought, where that would stand," she continued. "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."
"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, with them," she added.
King added that she had several positive interactions with the late NBA legend, who died in a tragic helicopter crash on January 26.
"The last thing I would want to do is disparage him at this particular time," she added. "I hope people understand that."
During an interview on CBS This Morning, King asked Leslie whether Bryant's legacy was "complicated for her as a woman because of his sexual assault charge."
"It's not complicated for me at all. Even in the few times that we've been at a club at the same time, Kobe's not the kind of guy, never been, like, 'Lis,' go get that girl,' or 'tell her,' or 'send her this.' I have other NBA friends that are like that. Kobe, he was never like that," she said.
"I have never seen him as 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," Leslie added.
King pressed her on the issue, saying that as Bryant's friend she wouldn't have seen that side of him.
"That's possible. I just don't believe that. I'm not saying things didn't happen. I just don't believe that things didn't happen with force," the 47-year-old said.
During the interview, King expanded to a larger conversation about whether the sexual assault trial was appropriate for people in the media to discuss considering Bryant was no longer around to address it himself. The CBS This Morning host asked if it was a "part of his history" or if it should be left out because it was "resolved."
"I think that the media should be more respectful at this time. If you had questions about it, you've had many years to ask him that. I don't think it's something that we should keep hanging over his legacy. He went to trial," Leslie said before King noted that the case was dismissed because the victim refused to testify.
"And I think that's how we should leave it," Leslie responded.
Although the case against Bryant was dropped, his accuser sued him in civil court, eventually settling for a monetary payment and a statement from Bryant apologizing for his actions.
“Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing, discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter,” Bryant said in his statement at the time.
Debate has since raged online and in the media over how to discuss the sexual assault trial since Bryant and his daughter were tragically killed in the helicopter crash on January 26. The Washington Post faced withering criticism, even from their own reporters, for suspending national political reporter Felicia Sonmez after she tweeted out a story on the sexual assault trial.
Sexual assault survivors and activists have bashed the media, NBA fans and the public for trying to limit the discussion about his trial. In an opinion piece for The Guardian, journalist Moira Donegan wrote that after Bryant’s death, "any mention of the rape accusation on social media was met with derision, contempt or calls not to speak ill of the dead."
"There is a sense that the alleged rape is minor compared with the rest of Bryant’s legacy, that the pain of his young accuser is irrelevant, and should not be debited from Bryant’s moral account. This chorus has put feminists in the position of making the assertion that rape is more morally significant than basketball," she said.In a piece for Time magazine, Evette Dionne wrote "it is irresponsible to excuse or gloss over Bryant’s treatment of this woman or his complicity in a legal strategy that upended her life. But it is also reductive to focus only on this behavior when reflecting on his life and death."
"The #MeToo movement has helped equip us with a more nuanced understanding of sexual violence. A person can be good to their spouses and their children, donate lots of money and create indelible work that influences— and can also be a monster. And yet it’s still difficult to process legacy in the face of tragedy. Thanks to the pressures of social media, in which we react to unfathomable news in real-time, we often fall into a binary of good or bad, wrong or right, on the side of survivors or on the side of a rapist. It is rarely that simple," she wrote.
"Only Bryant’s accuser can decide if she forgives him, and it’s not our place to do that work publicly on her behalf. What we can do is complicate these conversations so we can usher in more honesty about who’s elevated in the aftermath of a sexual assault and how fame and money insulate perpetrators from being brought to account," Dionne added.
After the conclusion of King's interview with Leslie, the host received backlash for discussing Bryant's past since his death.
That Gayle King interview was done in poor taste...Kobe’s family haven’t even buried him and his rape allegations which he was exonerated of are being brought up 👎🏾— queenyams. (@angieyams) February 5, 2020
This is gross on Gayle's part. https://t.co/5K1RZ1Pbe2— beyoncá (@BiancaRaye) February 5, 2020
That @GayleKing interview with Lisa Leslie was distasteful. To ask Lisa about Kobe’s alleged sexual assault while she’s mourning his death was truly nasty. Charges were dismissed over 10 years ago and during his time of death that’s what you focus on... Your agenda is calculated— boogie (@xyy_toi) February 5, 2020
Rapper 50 Cent also took to Twitter to share his sentiments.
👀what is this, wait somebody gotta help me understand why they keep doing this. 🤷🏽♂️i apologize for my language in advance let’s talk about this. pic.twitter.com/zpKu58SQwc— 50cent (@50cent) February 5, 2020
Support for Leslie's handling of the line of questioning also poured in.
Oh, Gayle. Her and Oprah are really two peas in pod.— ᴅᴏʟʟᴀʀ (@callmedollar) February 5, 2020
Shout out to Lisa Leslie! https://t.co/wFJKLkZM5V
MUCH LUV & RESPECT goes to @WNBA LEGEND QUEEN lisaleslie for your AMAZING support of @kobebryant Waking up to this interview and was just really pissed off! LIKE YO! I realize folks gotta do they job 🤔 but this is… https://t.co/2HpcQTJZ0B— Vivica A. Fox (@MsVivicaFox) February 5, 2020
Oprah and her girlfriend are the worst type of black people with a platform. S/o to Lisa Leslie for controlling the narrative positively https://t.co/0jEEttkdIM— Mamba Mentality 🐍 (@AlisaaRae_) February 5, 2020
very impressed with how my goal model @LisaLeslie handled a really tough situation... like the true legend she is.— Chiney Ogwumike (@Chiney321) February 5, 2020
another example of women having to be on the frontlines of such matters... that is the burden we continually bear. https://t.co/RvaY7rUHoW
Despite the debate of discussing the basketball legend's past, fans have taken to the Los Angeles Lakers' Staples Center, creating a makeshift memorial. Among those items were balloons, flowers, cards and banners which his wife, Vanessa, says she wishes to personally receive.