On February 5, King received backlash from viewers for asking WNBA star Lisa Leslie about a sexual assault accusation made against Bryant in 2003. For the CBS this Morning segment on Bryant’s legacy, King asked Leslie if she felt, as a woman and a basketball player, that the case complicated his contributions. “It’s not complicated for me at all,” Leslie responded. “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.”
“I think the media should be more respectful at this time,” Leslie continued. “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 out his legacy.”
After an onslaught of furious reactions from fans and celebrities like Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent, King took to Instagram to explain that CBS had edited the interview in a way she did not approve of. “I know that if I had only seen the clip that you saw, I’d be extremely angry with me too,” King said on IGTV. “I am mortified, I am embarrassed, and I am very angry.”
“For the network to take the most salacious part, when taken out of context, and put it online for people who didn’t see the whole interview is very upsetting to me. That’s something that I’ll have to deal with with them,” she said. “There will be a very intense discussion about that.”
“She is not doing well,” a tearful Winfrey revealed. “She has now death threats, has to now travel with security, and she’s feeling very much attacked. You know, Bill Cosby is tweeting from jail.”
“In the context of the interview, everyone seemed fine, including Lisa Leslie,” Winfrey continued, defending King’s line of questioning. “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.” Winfrey also warned against “misogynist vitriol” and online attacks.
“Obviously all things pass, she will be okay,” Winfrey said. “But she hasn’t slept in two days.”