Gayle King Responds to Backlash Over Interview Clip About Kobe Bryant's Sexual Assault Case: 'I'm Mortified'
By Rachel McRady
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Gayle King is sharing her side of the story. The 65-year-old CBS This Morning anchor took to Instagram early Thursday morning to speak out following backlash surrounding her recent interview with former professional basketball player and Kobe Bryant's longtime friend, Lisa Leslie.
After the interview aired, a clip was posted online featuring King asking Leslie about the 2003 rape charge and subsequent criminal case against Bryant.
"I know that if I'd only seen the clip you saw, I'd be extremely angry with me too. I am mortified. I'm embarrassed, and I'm very angry," King says on Instagram, adding that the clip was "totally taken out of context," from what she describes as a "wide-ranging" interview.
She adds that she has "been advised to say nothing, just let it go," but that she wants people to understand her reasoning for asking Leslie about the allegations.
"I wanted to get Lisa's take on it as a friend who knew him well, what she thought. Where that should stand," she explains. "And I thought 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. During the course of the interview, I asked follow-up questions because I wanted to make sure her position and perspective were very clear."
King also notes that she is the one who "insisted" on including the question about the case in the interview, saying, "I thought it put a nice button on that part of the conversation."
She adds that she plans to discuss the network's decision to post a clip of what she calls "the most salacious part" of her interview online.
King concludes her post by praising the late NBA star, saying, "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'd want to do is disparage him at this particular time."
A spokesperson for CBS News says in a statement to ET: "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."
When Bryant was 24 years old, he was charged with one count of felony assault after a then-19-year-old woman went to the police about a 2003 alleged sexual assault in the player’s Colorado hotel room. The criminal case against Bryant was dropped in 2004, after the accuser declined to testify. The same woman also filed a civil lawsuit, which was settled out of court in 2005.
In the five-minute clip posted online, King asks Leslie, "It's been said that his legacy is complicated because of a sexual assault charge, which was dismissed in 2004. Is it complicated for you as a woman?"
After Leslie said she never saw Bryant being aggressive toward women or doing something to violate a woman, King pressed. "But Lisa, you wouldn't see it, though, as his friend, you wouldn't see it," she said.
King then asked, "Is it even a fair question to talk about it considering he's no longer with us and that it was resolved? Or is it really part of his history?"
"I think that the media should be more respectful at this time," Leslie responded. "If you had questions about it, you've had many years to ask him that. I don't think it's something we should have hanging over his legacy. I mean, he went to trial."
"Yeah, but it was dismissed because the victim in the case refused to testify, so it was dismissed," King noted.
"And I think that's how we should leave it," Leslie concluded.
In January, Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were killed in a tragic helicopter crash that also took the lives of seven others.