Several celebrities and journalists have jumped to the defense of CBS This Morning co-host Gayle King in the wake of the controversy surrounding her recent interview with WNBA star Lisa Leslie regarding the late basketball great Kobe Bryant.
King–who has been met with sharp criticism for bringing up the sexual assault allegations brought against Bryant in an interview with his friend Leslie–has said that she is “mortified” about the backlash.
In 2003, Bryant was accused of raping a 19-year-old woman in Colorado. The case was dismissed after the woman refused to testify in court, but the allegations nevertheless impacted Bryant’s reputation.
Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash in California on January 26 along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and several other people.
Recently King conducted an interview with Leslie, a former WNBA champion, in which King referenced the assault charges and asked if they marred Bryant’s legacy.
“It’s not complicated for me at all,” said Leslie in the interview. “I just have never seen him as being the kind of person that would do something violating to a woman or be aggressive in that way, that’s just not the person I know.”
“I think the media should be more respectful at this time. It’s like, if you had questions about it, you’ve had many years to ask him that,” Leslie also said. “I don’t think it’s something that we should keep hanging over his legacy.”
CBS News shared a clip of the interview on its Twitter account on February 4. The clip contained only the reference about Bryant’s sexual assault allegations, although the full interview was longer.
King received widespread criticism for bringing up the assault allegations concerning a beloved celebrity. Rapper Snoop Dogg even shared a video on Instagram in which he criticized King for mentioning the incident and called her several slurs.
“Respect the family and back off b—-, before we come get you,” the artist said in his video.
However, other public figures have come out in King’s defense.
Susan Rice, the former United States ambassador to the United Nations and the former National Security Advisor under the Obama administration, addressed the controversy. On Friday evening, she retweeted a copy of Snoop Dogg’s video, called it “despicable” and addressed the rapper directly.
“This is despicable,” Rice wrote. “Gayle King is one of the most principled, fair and tough journalists alive. Snoop, back the **** off. You come for@GayleKing, you come against an army. You will lose, and it won’t be pretty.”
Comedian Amy Schumer also defended King. She shared a smiling photo of the host on her Instagram account Saturday, and including a caption in which she defended the journalist.
“I stand fiercely with @gayleking one of the most beloved journalists, mothers and friends of our time,” Schumer wrote in the photo’s caption. “However you feel about her interview, her receiving serious death threats is disgustingly unfair and unacceptable. Shame on you CBS for putting her in this position. #standwithgayle.”
Actress and writer Amber Tamblyn also reacted to Snoop Dogg’s comments about King, tweeting: “Wow. This is terrible. Shame on you, Snoop. A dog head b–ch? Really? To Gayle King, one of our most beloved women and journalists? You just lost a fan and I hope you lose a lot more for this.”
On Friday, the Twitter account of TODAY with Hoda & Jenna shared a video clip of Oprah Winfrey discussing how the events were affecting her friend King.
When asked about the “vitriol” leveled against King, Winfrey said: “Anybody can criticize anything, but the misogynist vitriol, and the attacking to the point where it is dangerous to be in the streets alone because… it’s not just the people who are attacking, it’s the other people who take that message and feel like they can do whatever they want to because of it.”
Winfrey also said that King had not slept in the past two days, and that the two of them were in constant contact over the phone through King’s ordeal.
Actress Rose McGowan shared an apology Bryant had made to the women he allegedly assaulted, in which he reiterated that he truly thought their interaction was consensual. She called for those criticizing King to be as understanding as Bryant was.
“You want to know why Kobe Bryant is a hero? He apologized to a hurt young woman,” she wrote. Snoop & others it’s time to stop terrorizing @gayleking& @feliciasonmez[.] Truth hurts. Death hurts. Grow the f— up. Kobe stopped hurting women, so can you.”
Yashar Ali, a journalist with bylines in The Huffington Post and New York magazine, wrote that Snoop Dogg’s video was “disgusting.”
“Seeing very few people defending Gayle…I know that if she were a white anchor she would have much more support,” Ali wrote in a tweet Friday afternoon.
Rikki Klieman, a lawyer and legal analyst for CBS News, retweeted a quote from a news story in which CBS News president Susan Szirinsky said that the news organization fully supported King’s reporting.
“If someone with as much integrity as @GayleKing cannot ask a question, then we are all lost,” Klieman wrote.