Gayle King has become the topic of the week after her controversial interview with Lisa Leslie about the life and death of Kobe Bryant. It was so intense that it sparked a chain of events that included threats from Snoop Dogg, demands for her to be canceled, and a statement from Bill Cosby, who’s currently serving prison time for a sexual assault conviction. Considering the intense backlash towards King, it seems like a great moment to revisit her past interviews, some of which received universal praise and some, as we know now, will probably elicit criticism.
With King’s recent interview with Leslie, many believed it was inappropriate for King to bring up the 2003 rape allegations against Kobe, which were eventually dropped from criminal court and settled in civil court. However, with more context to the full interview, King discussed various things with Leslie, including Kobe’s mentorship to women athletes, his work ethic and his aspirations to be like another great basketball player, Michael Jordan. When the big rape allegations question came up King framed it in a way that the media was framing it — because the media was talking about it before Gayle’s interview. Everyone from Slate to Time magazine published articles discussing how people might be processing the rape allegations in Kobe’s death and how the media has been covering it.
King brought this up in a preface to her question. “It’s been said that his legacy is complicated because of a sexual assault charge which was dismissed in 2003, 2004. Is it complicated for you as a women as a WNBA player?” This is when Leslie responded, “It’s not complicated for me at all.” She continued, “I just 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.”
King then pushed, “But Lisa you wouldn’t see it though. As his friend you wouldn’t see it” to which Leslie replied “And that’s possible. I just don’t believe that. And I’m not saying things didn’t happen. I just don’t believe that things didn’t happen with force.”
Then, Gayle asked a question that could’ve possibly cleared things up with all media outlets covering the allegations, “Is it even a fair question to talk about it, considering he’s no longer with us and that it was resolved or is it really part of his history?”
Leslie responded, “I think that the media should be more respectful at this time. If you had questions about it, you had many years to ask him that. I don’t think it’s something that we should keep hanging over his legacy.”
Again, many people championed Leslie and dragged King for trying to press a topic that the media was already covering, yet is still very sensitive. Much of the criticism made sense, considering Leslie was his close friend and it’s barely been two weeks since Kobe died. The rape allegation question could have been more appropriate for anther journalist perhaps.
However, folks didn’t just stop at the Leslie interview. Folks like Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent accused King of not pressing other white interviewees as much as she pressed Leslie or Black men accused of sexual assault. Many people even questioned why she hasn’t interviewed Harvey Weinstein, a man accused of sexually harassing or assaulting over 90 women, and who King has many pictures with. It’s not clear how close King and Weinstein are or if she knew about the sexual assault allegations before they blew up in 2017.
King did interview Weinstein’s defense lawyer in his current rape trial, however, and she applied just as much pressure and pushback as she did with Leslie, or as she might do with any other interviewee. Similar to Bill Cosby during his sexual assault trial, Weinstein might not be doing direct interviews, so demanding King interview him might be a high ask.
Check out King’s interview with Weinstein’s lawyer Donna Rotunno for yourself below and decide for yourself if she applies the same amount of pressure to white interviewees vs. Black interviewees. More Gayle interviews below should also help inform your decision.