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#pounditThursday, January 27, 2022

Gayle King responds after backlash for Lisa Leslie interview about Kobe Bryant

Gayle King

CBS anchor Gayle King responded with a video on Twitter Thursday after she received backlash for a clip of her interview with Lisa Leslie that dealt with Kobe Bryant’s sexual assault charge.

On Tuesday morning, the Twitter account for “CBS This Morning” tweeted out a clip from King’s sit-down interview with Leslie, a 3-time WNBA MVP and Basketball Hall of Famer.

The specific clip they tweeted showed King pressing Leslie on whether Bryant’s sexual assault charge complicates the late basketball star’s legacy. Leslie was adamant that the charge does not diminish Bryant’s legacy and said the media should stop pushing the matter so soon after Bryant’s death.

King started taking heat on social media over the clip. If that two-minute clip was all you saw of the interview, you would have come away with the sense that King was pushing an agenda, and that she was discrediting anything Leslie said because of Leslie’s friendship with Bryant.

Even LeBron James called out King.

After getting so much negative attention, King addressed the matter on social media. She was upset that an isolated clip was shared that did not give the full context of the interview. Her point is that she did not have an agenda to push but that the way the clip was shared and consumed made it seem that way.

Much of the negativity from the black community seems to stem from people upset about one black person going after another rather than standing united. There is also some thinking that King is linked to Oprah, and that they are collectively tougher on famous black people with past issues (Michael Jackson, Kobe) than white ones (Harvey Weinstein).

I disagree with this manner of thinking. When it comes to journalism, it’s not about who’s team/side you’re on, but about fairness. The question to ask is whether King was being fair. In the full context of the interview, which covered more areas — such as Bryant’s personality and connection with the fans — it’s clear King’s agenda was not to go straight after the sexual assault part, meaning she was being fair. Some could say that her telling Leslie she wouldn’t be able to see it because she’s a friend came off strong and may have made some think her comment was agenda-driven. Rather, that crossed me as her being fair to her audience to remind them of Leslie’s bias, but she probably should have said that to Leslie in less certain terms (about her not being able to see it).

I will say the same thing that I said when Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez took criticism for bringing up Bryant’s sexual assault charge the day he died. When talking about Kobe’s legacy, the sexual assault case should be included, but if you are being fair, it should not be the sole focus. Sonmez made it her sole focus and displayed an agenda, which is why she was deservedly criticized.

Bryant touched, mentored, taught, entertained, and provided a tremendous amount of joy to the world. He stood for values like family and hard work. So much of what he did is commendable and should be praised. If you are only focusing on the sexual assault charge (which Bryant always disputed and said was consensual), then you are ignoring all his other positive contributions to the world.

There is a reason why a statute of limitations exists for reporting different types of crimes. One of the reasons for this is that after a certain amount of time elapses, it may be in society’s best interest to let everyone move forward rather than bring up painful past issues. Bryant did so much good since the court case, and had become an especially good role model in retirement, that one can reasonably say the sexual assault case was become less and less a part of his legacy.

As for people wondering about the timing — why are people just now rehashing the matter? — the reason is because Bryant died. When a public figure like him dies, writing obituaries and telling the history/legacy of a person includes evaluating these matters. And for the media to evaluate Bryant’s legacy, bringing up the case is part of the story, so long as it’s done in a fair and respectful manner.

The way Sonmez brought it up was not fair; it was agenda-driven. The way King did it was fair. Unfortunately for King, CBS hung her out to dry by isolating that clip and throwing it out there on Twitter like chum for the sharks. They took the bait, and she ended up being the one to pay.


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