Oprah choked back tears on Friday as she revealed her best friend Gayle King has received death threats over the fallout surrounding her interview with WNBA star Lisa Leslie where she asked about the years-old rape allegation against Kobe Bryant.
King interviewed Leslie as part of a package for CBS This Morning where they discussed Bryant’s basketball legacy and the tragedy of his recent death.
At one point, she asked Leslie what her opinion was of the 2003 accusation against Bryant that he had raped a woman. He was never convicted – the charges against him were dropped – and he issued a public apology to the woman to say that while he thought their sex was consensual, he acknowledged she did not.
A clip of King asking Leslie about it was posted on the CBS This Morning Twitter feed to promote the interview and drew the ire of celebrities like Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent and even Bill Cosby, who tweeted about it from jail.
King took to Instagram on Thursday to condemn her own network for uploading the clip ‘out of context’ and said they had deliberately chosen the ‘most salacious part’ of the interview.
On Friday, Oprah appeared on Today with Hoda and Jenna where she said King now has to now travel with security because she is receiving so many threats.
She added that she has not ‘slept for two days’ either.
‘She is not doing well. May I say she is not doing well because she has now death threats and has to now travel with security.
[email protected] emotionally responds to backlash her friend Gayle King received over King’s recent interview about Kobe Bryant with WNBA legend Lisa Leslie: “She is not doing well because she has now death threats.” pic.twitter.com/M8HrCp8vTr
‘She’s feeling very much attacked,’ Oprah said, adding: ‘Bill Cosby is tweeting from jail!’
She went on to say that King feels as though she was placed in a ‘terrible position’.
‘That interview had already ran. In the context of the interview, everyone seemed fine including Lisa Leslie and it was only because somebody at the network put up that clip.
‘I can see how people would be obviously very upset if you thought that Gayle was trying to press to get an answer from Lisa Leslie.
‘Obviously, all things pass and she will be OK, but she hasn’t slept in two days,’ she said.
She added: ‘The vitriol is… anybody can criticize anything but the misogynist vitriol and the attacking to the point where it is dangerous to be in the streets alone.
‘It’s not just the people that are attacking it’s the other people that take that message and feel that they can do whatever they want to because of it.’
Oprah said she had spoken to her on the phone three times since it happened.
‘You stand in the gap and try to be there for your friends, but this is very hard.
‘When you have social media and the force of social media and particularly people who didn’t see either interview, I think everybody has their opinion but to do it with such vitriol is hate and meanness,’ she said.
In the clip of the interview that sparked the outrage, King asks Leslie: ‘It’s been said that his legacy is complicated because of a sexual assault charge. Is it complicated for you as a woman, as a WNBA player?’
‘That’s just not the person that I know,’ Leslie said.
‘It’s not complicated for me at all. Even if there’s a 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.’
King then probed further with her follow-up comments, saying: ‘But Lisa, you wouldn’t see it, though. As his friend, you wouldn’t see it.’
‘And that’s possible,’ Leslie said. ‘I just don’t believe that.’
King asked if it was ‘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.’
Leslie said 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.’
Among those who were critical of King’s line of questioning was rapper 50 Cent.
‘What is this, wait somebody gotta help me understand why they keep doing this,’ he wrote. ‘I apologize for my language in advance let’s talk about this.
The rapper posted a video clip in which he said: ‘That’s not complicated. You just said it was dismissed… Then how would you see it, Gayle? How the f*** would you see it, f***?’
King hit back in an Instagram video on Wednesday night where she said she would have been angry too if she’d seen that clip.
‘I am mortified, I am embarrassed, and I am 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.’
King revealed that she didn’t know about the clip until she started receiving calls from people asking things like: ‘What the hell are you doing?’ and she had no idea what they were talking about.
She said she had been advised to ‘say nothing, just let it go’ and wait for the controversy to run its course.
‘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 said.
King said her interview with Leslie, who had known Bryant since he was 18, was wide ranging and covered his career, his passion, his sense of humor and the 2003 rape allegation.
‘Yes, we talked about that court case because that court case has also come up [since his death],’ King said as she defended asking the question.
‘I wanted to get Lisa’s take on it as a friend, what she thought, where that should stand.’
She said she asked several follow-up questions to ensure that Leslie’s ‘position and perspective were very clear’.
‘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 said.
‘I insisted that that part be in the interview, because I thought it put a nice button on that part of the conversation.
‘When the interview aired, we had a great reaction to it. I talked to Lisa last night and she was okay with the interview. I felt really good.
‘So for the network to take the most salacious part, when taken out of context, and put it on the internet 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 with them. There will be a very intense discussion.’
On Thursday, CBS said: ‘Gayle conducted a thoughtful, wide-ranging interview with Lisa Leslie about the legacy of Kobe Bryant. An excerpt was posted that did not reflect the nature and tone of the full interview,’ CBS said in a statement.
‘We are addressing the internal process that led to this and changes have already been made.’