Oprah Winfrey says her friend Gayle King is facing death threats following a social media backlash caused by an interview with retired WNBA star Lisa Leslie that concerned the late Kobe Bryant.
Winfrey started choking up during an appearance on “Today” with Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager while talking about the backlash against her BFF.
“She is not doing well,” Winfrey said as she teared up. “She is not doing well because she now has death threats and has to now travel with security. She is feeling very much attacked.”
King has been majorly criticized since CBS released a clip of a portion of King’s interview with Leslie in which Leslie addressed a Colorado sexual assault case that had been brought against Bryant and dismissed. In the clip, King asks Leslie whether the 2003 case made Bryant’s legacy complicated for her. Leslie said that it did not.
Critics lashed out at King on social media for bringing up the old allegations. Actor, rap artist and television executive 50 Cent told The Associated Press he thought it was unfair because Bryant wasn’t around to defend himself. Snoop Dogg posted a profane Twitter video that concluded with him urging King to back off “before we come get you.” The Twitter account belonging to imprisoned comedian Bill Cosby also was critical.
Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were part of a group of nine people who were killed last month in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.
On Thursday, King expressed anger at her “CBS This Morning” bosses for releasing what she felt was a “salacious” and “out of context” clip of her interview with Leslie.
“I am mortified, I am embarrassed and I’m very angry,” King said.
Winfrey backed up King on Friday.
“She’s not doing well and feels that she was put in a really terrible position,” Winfrey said. “Because that interview had already ran and in the context of the interview, everyone seemed fine, including Lisa Leslie.”
Winfrey said she understands why people are upset based on the clip, but added that King “hasn’t slept in two days.”
“Anybody can criticize anything, but the misogynistic vitriol to the point where it is dangerous to be in the streets alone ...” Winfrey said, trailing off. “Because it’s not just the people who are attacking. It’s the other people who feel like they can take that message and do whatever they want.”