Gayle King woke up so incensed with CBS over a viral clip of her asking Kobe Bryant’s good friend, former WNBA star Lisa Leslie, about his rape trial, she vented on video before going on air Thursday.
“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,” she said on Instagram. “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, 65, addressed Bryant’s 2003 sexual assault case, which was settled out of court in 2005. The NBA legend was killed in a helicopter crash at the age of 41 last month, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others.
“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 then 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 followed up with, “But Lisa, you wouldn’t see it though. As his friend, you wouldn’t see it.”
Fans of Bryant found the questioning disrespectful and distasteful. Actress Vivica A. Fox even posted the clip, writing, “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.”
On Thursday morning, King said, “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 explained: “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 continued, “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 expected the network to post the clip out of context.
“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 explained.
She continued, “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. 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 intended … I thank you for listening.”
Reps for King and CBS did not immediately return our requests for comment.