“I’ve been up reading the comments about the interview I did with Lisa Leslie about Kobe Bryant, and I know that if I had only seen the clip that you saw, I’d be extremely angry with me too,” Gayle King, 65, said in a video she posted to Instagram on Feb. 6. In the clip that Gayle mentioned, from her CBS This Morning interview with Lisa, she brings up Kobe’s 2003 sexual assault charge and asks Lisa if this “complicates” Kobe’s legacy. The clip went viral, and everyone from Snoop Dogg to Vivica A. Fox attacked Gayle online, which left her seeing red. “I am mortified. I am embarrassed, and I am very angry. 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. It’s jarring to me. I didn’t even know anything about it.”
“I reached out to Lisa — because I know she’s a longtime friend of Kobe’s — to talk about his legacy and their friendship,” said Gayle. “We had a really wide-ranging interview, talked about many things: his career, his passion, his sense of humor, the way he was mentoring other people, how he was starting his next chapter, it was wide-ranging. And yes, we talked about that court case because that court case has also come up. And I wanted to get Lisa’s take on it as a friend who knew him well, what she thought, where that should stand. 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 her position and perspective were very clear and at the end when she said, ‘It’s time to leave it alone,’ as I said I thought that was powerful and I insisted that that part be in the interview because I thought it put a nice button on that part of the conversation,” she added.
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) February 4, 2020
“I felt really good about the interview. 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, it is very upsetting to me, and that’s something I’m going to have to deal with them. There will be a very intense discussion about that.” Gayle also noted that she had been with Kobe Bryant on “many social occasions” and that he was “very kind and very warm to me, and I felt we had a friendly relationship.” The intense response to this clip forced Gayle to speak directly on the matter. “I wanted you to hear exactly where I’m coming from and how I’m feeling and to let everybody know that no disrespect intended. I thank you for listening.”
Gayle’s clips prompted many Kobe fans (and friends) to fire back at the CBS This Morning anchor. “We expect more from you, Gayle,” Snoop Dogg said in a heated Instagram video. “How dare you try to tarnish my homeboy’s reputation.” “I realize folks gotta do they job, but this is just disrespectful in my opinion #CLOUTCHASER,” wrote Vivica. Others said it was “too soon,” others wondered why it wasn’t brought up when Kobe was alive (it was, notes The Root).
In 2003, a 19-year-old female hotel worker accused Kobe of raping her at the Cordillera Lodge and Spa in Edwards, Colorado. She claimed it was rape. He said it was consensual. The case was dropped in 2004 when the accuser refused to testify. Kobe’s defense maligned the alleged victim by saying her previous suicide attempt was a grab for attention, per The Root. The defense also attempted to slut-shame her, alleging that since she “had consensual sex with other men, it meant that she could not have been raped.” Her name was even leaked to the press, and the handling of Kobe’s rape case has been under scrutiny for years.
After the case was dismissed, Kobe issued a lengthy statement. “First, I want to apologize directly to the young woman involved in this incident. I want to apologize to her for my behavior that night and for the consequences [that] she has suffered in the past year. Although this year has been incredibly difficult for me personally, I can only imagine the pain she has had to endure.”
“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,” he said, per USA Today. “After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.”