Oprah Winfrey feels for her best friend, Gayle King. The longtime friend of the CBS This Morning anchor appeared on Friday's Today show, where she spoke with Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager about the recent controversy surrounding King's interview with Lisa Leslie, a former professional basketball player and close friend of the late Kobe Bryant.
When Kotb asked Winfrey how King was doing, the longtime TV host got visibly emotional, getting choked up as she said, "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, and she is feeling very much attacked."
Winfrey added, "She is not doing well and feels that she was put in a really terrible position because that interview had already ran. And 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. And I can see how people would obviously be very upset if you thought that Gayle was just trying to press to get an answer from Lisa Leslie. She obviously, all things pass, she will be OK, but she hasn’t slept in two days."
Winfrey noted that she spoke with King on the phone Friday morning and the night before.
"This is very hard because when you have social media and the force of social media and particularly people who didn’t see either interview making attacks, I think everybody has a right to have their opinion, but to do it with such vitriol and hate and meanness," Winfrey said.
King became the focus of criticism after a clip was posted online showing only a small segment of her previously aired interview, in which she asked Leslie about the 2003 sexual assault accusation against Bryant, pressing her for an answer. Many felt the questions tarnished Bryant's legacy after the former Los Angeles Lakers star tragically died in a helicopter crash with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others last month.
King later took to social media on Thursday to address the criticism, saying she was "mortified" to see the network had put up a clip of what she considered to be the "most salacious" part of her "wide-ranging" interview.
A spokesperson for CBS News told ET in a statement on Thursday: "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."
Not only did King receive criticism from trolls online, but she also got aggressive backlash from celebrities. Snoop Dogg shared an expletive-filled video of himself disparaging King on Instagram, and threatening, "How dare you try to tarnish my motherf**king homeboy's reputation, punk motherf**ker. Respect the family and back off, b**ch, before we come get you."
He then shared photos of King and Winfrey posing with disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. 50 Cent reposted Snoop Dogg's video and also reposted rapper Lil Boosie's video angrily reacting to the clip. Meanwhile, Bill Cosby posted to his official account, writing, "Snoop - when they brought me to my gated community and placed me inside of my penthouse, they didn’t win nor did they silence me. It’s so sad and disappointing that successful Black Women are being used to tarnish the image and legacy of successful Black Men, even in death. Are these people that in need of fame, ratings and/or money? On behalf of myself, Camille and my family, thank you, thank you and thank you. My heartfelt prayers are with Kobe and his family, as well as with Michael Jackson and his family. May their legacies live on forever."
The message was later shared by Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent.
During Friday morning's interview, Winfrey specifically called out online critics threatening to do harm to King, saying, "I think anybody can criticize anything, but the misogynist vitriol and the attacking to the point of it is dangerous to be in the streets alone because it is not just the people who are attacking, it's the other people who take that message and feel like they can do whatever they want to because of it."
.@Oprah 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