Gayle King is responding to backlash after bringing up Kobe Bryant’s rape allegations during an interview with basketball great, Lisa Leslie, for CBS This Morning. A clip of King’s interview went viral on Wednesday (Feb. 5).
“I understand why people are upset seeing that clip out of context,” she said in a statement to USA Today. “I hope they will now watch the entire wide-ranging interview. We asked a longtime friend of Kobe Bryant’s to talk to us about his legacy and their friendship and Lisa Leslie did exactly that.”
In the sit-down discussing Bryant’s legacy, King mentioned the nearly 20-year-old rape case against Bryant that was later dismissed.
“It’s been said that his legacy is complicated because of a sexual assault charge which was dismissed in 2003, 2004,” King said to Leslie. “Is it complicated for you, as a woman, as a WNBA player?”
Leslie replied, “It’s not complicated for me at all. Even if there’s a few times that we’ve been in the 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. I have never seen him being the kind of person that would do something to violate a woman or be aggressive in that way. That’s just not the person that I know.”
King replied, “But Lisa, you wouldn’t see it though. As his friend, you wouldn’t see it.”
“And that’s possible,” said Leslie. “I just don’t believe that, and I’m not saying things didn’t happen. I just don’t believe that things [happened] with force.”
Bryant was accused of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old hotel employee in 2003. The Lakers star admitted to having sex with the woman but denied that the encounter wasn’t consensual. The woman filed a civil suit against Bryant that was settled out of court.
King questioned the fairness of talking about the allegations, given that the late NBA legend can no longer defend himself. “Or is it really part of his history?”
Leslie said that the media should be “more respectful” about the topic, especially as Bryant’s family, friends, and fans continue to mourn his death. “It’s like, if you had questions about it, you’ve had many years to ask him that,” she added. “I don’t think it’s something that we should keep hanging over his legacy. I’m mean, [the case] went to trial.”
King noted that the case was dismissed because the accuser refused to testify, to which Leslie replied, “And I think that we should leave it there.”
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) February 4, 2020
The viral clip was met with swift backlash against King, who was accused of targeting black male celebrities, and turning a blind eye against white celebs who have been accused of rape, such as Harvey Weinstein.
Gayle King has me on 10 right now!! Why you didn’t ask any of the shi* when Kobe was living!! So disrespectful and inappropriate!! FOH!!! SMMFH!!
— Rickey Smiley (@RickeySmiley) February 5, 2020
And we are suppose to take Gayle King seriously. She been hanging in those circles with Oprah…can’t tell me she never knew what has been going down. Oprah got that seat for her on the morning show. pic.twitter.com/y0o3rzcOZP
— #BlackHistoryMonth✊🏾 (@simplychariceXO) February 5, 2020
— Mercy Williams (@glowin_melanin) February 5, 2020
Just seen the Interview between Lisa Leslie and Gayle King. Lisa handled that interview like a PRO!👏🏾👏🏾 Fck Gayle…..and Oprah. I’m sick of both of them🤦🏾♂️😑Smh pic.twitter.com/4w9vTfQxgK
— JayIntuitive (@JKIRKLANDD) February 5, 2020
See more of King’s interview with Leslie below.