Gayle King has been at the center of controversy after a clip of her asking WNBA player Lisa Leslie about Kobe Bryant's 2003 sexual assault case went viral. The video was from a longer interview with Leslie, and King even called out CBS for sharing the clip "out of context." In response, she received a lot of criticism from Kobe fans and celebrities, including Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, and Ari Lennox, among others.
Appearing on NBC's Today with Hoda and Jenna, Oprah Winfrey emotionally defended King, who is her close friend. "She is not doing well. May, I say, she is not doing well because, she now has death threats and has to now travel with security. She’s feeling very much attacked," she explained. Winfrey added that Bill Cosby had even criticized King from behind bars. Due to the controversy, she said King hasn't "slept in two days."
"She's not doing well and feels that she was put in a really terrible position," Winfrey continued. "In the context of the interview, everyone seemed fine, including Lisa Leslie. It was only because somebody at the network put up that clip. I can see how people would obviously be upset if you thought that Gayle was trying to just press to get an answer from Lisa Leslie."
In the controversial clip in question, King asked Leslie about the late Kobe Bryant's "complicated" legacy due to the sexual assault charge, which was settled out of court in 2005. "Is it complicated for you, as a woman, as a WNBA player?" King asked. "I just never, have ever 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," Leslie replied.
Snoop Dogg, in a passionate video posted to Instagram, called King a "punk motherfucker" for her comments. He proceeded to call for the release of Bill Cosby, who later thanked him on Instagram. Lennox called out both Winfrey and King, and said they were "tearing down the legacies of so many beautiful black men." King notably received a lot of attention last year for her interview with R. Kelly, who raised his voice while she remained calm throughout.
"I think anyone 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," Oprah Winfrey continued. "It's the other people who take that message and feel like they can do whatever they want to because of it."
In a video in which she addressed the controversy, King said she too was "mourning his loss just like everybody else."