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In the wake of Kobe Bryant’s death, CBS This Morning host Gayle King conducted an interview with former WNBA star Lisa Leslie to discuss the late basketball player’s legacy. After CBS shared a clip from the interview, King received backlash for asking Leslie about a past rape charge filed against Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash on January 26. However, a “mortified” King took to social media to defend herself and to offer further context surrounding her interview with Leslie.
During a sit-down interview to discuss the late Kobe Bryant’s life and career with Lisa Leslie, Gayle King brought up the sexual assault allegations brought against Bryant in 2003. The late basketball player was charged by a then 19-year-old woman with raping her in a hotel room. The case was dropped in 2004.
In the interview excerpt, Gayle King asked Lisa Leslie about the case, wondering if it “complicated” Bryant’s legacy. Leslie didn’t think Kobe Bryant would “violate a woman or be aggressive in that way.” King pressed on, telling Leslie that “as his friend, you wouldn’t see it.” In two videos posted to Twitter, the CBS This Morning host called out CBS for the out-of-context video, claiming there was more to the conversation that didn’t make the cut. Here’s what she said:
I’ve been up reading the comments about the interview I did with Lisa Leslie about Kobe Bryant. I know that 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. It’s jarring to me. I didn’t even know anything about it. 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… I’ve 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.
Gayle King continued, saying that the interview was “wide-ranging” and that the court case did come up and, as a “friend who knew him well,” King wanted Lisa Leslie’s perspective on the matter. King also stated that she asked several follow-up questions to reaffirm Leslie’s position on the matter, which wasn’t seen in the interview excerpt. In her words:
It was very powerful when [Leslie] looked me in the eye, as a member of the media, to say it is time for the media to leave it alone and to back off. During the course of the interview, I asked follow-up questions because I wanted to make sure that her position and her perspective were very clear.
In a second video posted to Twitter, Gayle King shared her reaction to the interview and CBS’ handling of the clip’s release without context and that she wanted people to hear from her directly instead of watching her read a “prepared remark.” Here were here some of her final thoughts on the matter:
And I insisted — I insisted — 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 got a great reaction to it. I talked to Lisa last night. I believe Lisa was okay with the interview and 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. And we will — there will be a very intense discussion about that.
The interview that aired with Lisa Leslie was five and a half minutes long. Gayle King also added that she herself had interacted with Kobe Bryant on several occasions and that the last thing she wanted to do was “disparage him at this particular time” and that she hopes people “understand that.” You can watch her interview with Leslie below.
Gayle King's response to CBS airing the clip without context has already received a lot of attention on social media, which is unsurprising considering the interest in Kobe Bryant's legacy in the wake of his tragic death. Will CBS change how it handles footage and provide specific context as a general rule in the future?
Only time will tell, but a CBS News spokesperson weighed in via a statement to TVLine:
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. We are addressing the internal process that led to this and changes have already been made.
Hopefully the way CBS News addresses the internal process and made the changes satisfies Gayle King. She was clearly upset at the way her interview was portrayed; perhaps something as simple as greater context will provide the fix that will accurately represent how the conversation actually happened.
For now, you can catch Gayle King on CBS This Morning, airing weekdays on CBS. For some more viewing options now and in the not-too-distant future, take a look at our 2020 winter and spring premiere schedule.