Gayle King Opens Up to Oprah About Kobe Bryant Interview Backlash: ‘It Was Very Painful'
"We can disagree, and you can be mad at me even, but you can’t speak to me the way I was spoken to and threatened," Gayle King tells friend Oprah Winfrey
On Saturday, at the final, sold-out stop of Oprah Winfrey’s 2020 Vision: Your Life in Focus Tour, presented by WW, in Denver the CBS This Morning host had a wide-ranging conversation with Winfrey about everything from their decades-long friendship to parenting, relationships, careers and the recent controversy, which she called a “very painful” situation.
“I have moved on,” King, 65, told Winfrey, 66, in PEOPLE’s first look look at the sit-down. “Is there a scab? Yeah. But I have moved on.”
“I put on my game face and my big girl pants, because I never lost sight of who I was, what I believe I am, and my intention. I’ve never lost sight of that. But it certainly was a learning curve, and it was very painful,” the veteran journalist continued.
In an interview with WNBA star Lisa Leslie about Bryant’s life and legacy shortly after the NBA star’s death in January, King asked whether Bryant’s past sexual assault case complicated his legacy.
In 2003, Bryant pleaded not guilty to felony sexual assault after a 19-year-old employee of a Colorado ski resort accused him of sexual assault and claimed he blocked her from leaving his room and allegedly choked her. Criminal charges against the athlete were eventually dropped, and a civil case brought against Bryant was settled out of court.
After the interview aired in full, a clip of that portion of the interview was re-circulated by CBS, which led stars, including Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent, to slam King on social media. Their harsh language provoked further backlash due to people perceiving their words as threats against the journalist.
During her conversation with King over the weekend, Winfrey pointed out that the “good people” who remained silent throughout the backlash also contributed to the pain of the experience.
“In every circumstance, I think this is something for us to remember,” Winfrey said. “It’s not the people who are being mean, it’s not the badness, it’s not the vitriol that’s being put into the world, but it’s the good people who remain silent that becomes so hurtful.”
“I think we can disagree politically, we can disagree socially, if you want to, but I just think humanity should prevail always,” King added. “I think we still have to figure out a way to navigate that with each other. That we can disagree, and you can be mad at me even, but you can’t speak to me the way I was spoken to and threatened.”
Winfrey, who spoke out in support of her friend throughout the backlash, applauded King for never letting the opinions lead her to doubt herself.
“I love that you said through it all you never questioned who you were,” Winfrey said.
“No, I absolutely didn’t, Oprah,” King replied.
Last month, as she accepted a public apology from Snoop, King acknowledged the difficult balancing act that comes with her job.
“As a journalist, it is sometimes challenging to balance doing my job with the emotions and feelings during difficult times,” she said in a statement to the Associated Press. “I don’t always get it perfect but I’m constantly striving to do it with compassion and integrity.”
King and Winfrey also discussed their friendship.
“I never needed therapy because I had you as my friend,” Winfrey said.
“We have talked about everything and nothing,” King replied. “You’ve never had therapy, but I’ve been to five therapists when I was married. And may I just say this? Nobody has been a better therapist than Oprah!