Gayle King blames CBS in response to backlash over Kobe Bryant rape question

TV host Gayle King has addressed the controversy surrounding a question she asked about Kobe Bryant in an interview with a former WNBA star.
(Jordan Strauss / Associated Press)

Gayle King is defending herself after a question she asked former WNBA star Lisa Leslie about Kobe Bryant’s rape case sparked backlash in the wake of his Jan. 26 death.

In an Instagram video posted Thursday and captioned “My Perspective,” the “CBS This Morning” host offered her side of the story after critics on social media bashed her for prompting Leslie, who was close with the Lakers legend, to speak on perhaps the most troubling chapter of Bryant’s life.

“I’ve been up reading the comments about the interview I did with Lisa Leslie about Kobe Bryant,” King said. “I know that if I had only seen the clip that you saw, I’d be extremely angry with me, too. I am mortified. I am embarrassed, and I am very angry.”

The controversial excerpt from King’s talk with the former Los Angeles Sparks standout had been posted on “CBS This Morning” social media accounts Tuesday.


“Unbeknownst to me, my network put up a clip of a very wide-ranging interview, totally taken out of context, and when you see it that way, it’s very jarring,” King continued. “It was jarring to me. I didn’t even know anything about it. ... I really want people to understand what happened here, and how I’m feeling about it.”

In 2003, a 19-year-old woman accused Bryant of raping her in a hotel room while she was working as a front desk clerk at the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera in the Rocky Mountains town of Edwards, Colo. Prosecutors ended up dropping the sexual assault case against the player in 2004 after the woman declined to testify.

At the time, Bryant said, “Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did.”

In her social media response, King provided some context about how the rape allegation came up in conversation with Leslie, explaining that she had reached out to the retired player and coach to discuss Bryant’s “legacy and their friendship.”

In the full interview, according to King, she and Leslie “talked about many things: his career, his passion, his sense of humor, the way he was mentoring other people.”

“And, yes, we talked about that court case,” she added, “because ... I wanted to get Lisa’s take on it as a friend who knew him well.”

During their discussion, King asked the four-time Olympian, “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?”


“It’s not complicated for me at all,” Leslie replied. “Kobe’s not the kind of guy ... I have other NBA friends who are like that. Kobe, he was never like that. I have [never] seen him being the kind of person that would do something to violate a woman or be aggressive in that way.”

After King pressed her on the subject, Leslie told the host, “I think that the media should be more respectful at this time. It’s like, 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.”

In her reflection, King praised Leslie for her candor, also adding that she felt “really good about the interview” and was under the impression that Leslie was “OK with the interview” after touching base with her Wednesday night.

“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 that her position and perspective were very clear.’”

But the veteran journalist is not through with CBS, which she repeatedly slammed for reducing her “wide-ranging” talk with Leslie to a clickable soundbite.

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“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,” she said.

“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 am going to have to deal with with them. There will be a very intense discussion about that.”

By Thursday afternoon, that discussion appeared to have started.

“Gayle conducted a thoughtful, wide-ranging interview with Lisa Leslie about the legacy of Kobe Bryant,” a CBS News spokesperson said in a statement. “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.”