Oprah Winfrey teared up while revealing that her close friend Gayle King has received death threats and is “not doing well” after facing criticism over an interview with Kobe Bryant’s friend WNBA star Lisa Leslie.
Earlier this week, CBS This Morning shared a clip of the interview between King and Leslie on Twitter, where the TV host could be seen asking the basketball player about rape allegations made against late NBA player Bryant.
In response to the clip, King was widely criticised for bringing up the allegations so soon after Bryant’s death.
On Friday, Winfrey became emotional while discussing her friend during an appearance on Today with Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager, where she was asked about the backlash surrounding the interview.
“She is not doing well,” Winfrey told the hosts. “May I say, she is not doing well. Because she has now death threats and has to now travel with security and she’s feeling very much attacked.
“You know, Bill Cosby is tweeting from jail. And she’s 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.”
According to Winfrey, she could “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,” but said the backlash only occurred because “somebody at the network put up that clip”.
Winfrey then told the hosts that the biggest issue with the criticism is when “the misogynistic vitriol and the attacking” reaches a point “where it is dangerous to be in the streets alone”.
“It’s the people who take that message and feel like they can do whatever they want to because of it,” she said.
According to King, who addressed the backlash on social media, she is “mortified” and blames CBS for taking the clip “out of context”.
“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”m embarrassed and I am very angry,” King said. “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.”
King also said she felt “really good about the interview,” which touched on Bryant’s career, his sense of humour, and his role as a mentor, and that she’d asked about the court case because she “wanted to get Lisa’s take on it as a friend who knew him well”.
“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,” she continued. “There will be a very intense discussion about that.”
In a statement to NBC News, a spokesperson for CBS acknowledged that the expert of the interview “did not reflect the nature and tone of the full interview”.
“Gayle conducted a thoughtful, wide-ranging interview with Lisa Leslie about the legacy of Kobe Bryant," the statement read. "We are addressing the internal process that led to this and changes have already been made.”
The Independent has contacted CBS for comment.
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