On Gayle King, Journalism, Kobe Bryant & Colorado 2003

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from CBS interview

Let’s talk about what happened with the Gayle King interview. Many of you, by now, have seen it. And you have an opinion.

I’ve heard people say Gayle was just doing her job. Some think she was wrong to even ask the question. Lots of people from your favorite Uncle to your favorite thinkpiece writer believes fans simply can’t handle “the truth.”

And even more so, we’re now fighting over reactions to her interview instead of addressing the interview itself. Let’s stick to the subject everyone. This isn’t about praising a star, this isn’t about a question. It’s about Gayle inserting her own opinion when she wasn’t happy with the answer she received.

I wanna break down a few things as plainly as possible. I’m speaking from my own perspective, and hopefully, this resonates with you and helps you to think more broadly.

In case you haven’t seen the interview, here is a transcript of that infamous clip:

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 woman, as a WNBA player?

It’s not complicated for me at all. Even if there’s a few times that we’ve been at a club at the same time, Kobe’s not the kind of guy — never been, like, you know, ‘Lis, go get that girl, or tell her or send her this.’ I have other NBA friends that are like that. Kobe was never like that. 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.

But Lisa, you wouldn’t see it, though. As his friend, you wouldn’t see it.

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.

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?

I think that the media should be more respectful at this time. It’s like 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. I mean, it went to trial.

Yeah, well, the case was dismissed because the victim in the case refused to testify. So, it was dismissed.

And I think that that’s how we should leave it.

Gayle claimed the clip was taken out of context. The rest of the time she and Lisa Leslie spent together was focused on remembering and discussing Kobe Bryant's life and legacy. This time of honest discussion or even praise does not inform or change this portion of questions. I’ve seen many things online be taken out of context, but this simply isn’t one of them.

Gayle was concerned that viewers believed the rape trial was all she talked about. We know that wasn’t the whole point of her interview. But whether this exchange took 90 seconds or 90 hours, it matters. Regardless of how much praise, honor, or grief they shared in the rest of it, how Gayle handled this portion of the interview absolutely matters. This is not the network’s error for sharing it, it’s her actions. If she had questioned Lisa differently about the allegations, there would be no backlash.

And trust me, in this day and age, even if CBS had used a different clip, Gayle still would’ve been found out (remember a few months ago when TI was taken to task over his comments on a relatively new podcast? If you do something dirty, people will find it)/

Second, everyone thinks the world is mad at the questions. I will say, some people are made about the questions — they don’t think Kobe’s trial should even be mentioned at this time. I am not those people. Everyone from Roland Martin to Ta-Nehisi Coates thinks we’re mad at a question. Honestly, the questions are fine. This is part of Kobe's life. A very public life that media and fans and bystanders are mulling over and reflecting on daily. I actually thought her two questions on the matter were nicely worded and important: (in paraphrase) so many people called Kobe’s legacy complicated, was it complicated to Lisa as a woman being his friend and should the media let it alone in the wake of his tragic death given it was resolved?

They were fair questions that didn’t allude to disrespect, and Lisa answered them. Had Gayle let her respond and kept going with her next set of questions, we wouldn’t be here. But she did something that is actually not good journalism at all.

After Lisa responded to the first question, Gayle made remarks at Lisa that questioned her experience, remarks that arguably came from a place that either presumes guilt or questions Lisa’s knowledge and stance on sexual assault: “But Lisa, you wouldn’t see it, though. As his friend, you wouldn’t see it.”

What Gayle did in this moment was contradict Lisa’s personal experience by interpolating an alternative reality. In fact, “but” is used to contrast statements, to indicate the “impossibility of anything other than what is being stated.” After asking for Lisa’s feelings, Gayle essentially told Lisa nothing she said mattered because friends never see those kinds of signs/behaviors.

Then she asked Lisa about the case, referencing the rape allegation as “resolved,” but when Lisa said “he went to trial” and paused, Gayle interjected “Yeah, well, the case was dismissed because the victim in the case refused to testify.” While this is true, she spoke in an annoyed manner that made the dismissal seem insignificant. Gayle’s interjected statements sounded just like someone who has already presumed guilt.

In Gayle’s Instagram video, she claimed that she simply made follow-up questions to “make sure Lisa’s stance was very clear.” First of all, Lisa was extremely clear in her answer. Second, the comments Gayle made weren’t follow up questions, they weren’t questions at all. They were comments made to get viewers and Lisa herself to question what she knows about her friend. In fact, if you do watch or read the rest of the interview, you will see that this portion of the interview in which Gayle makes statements instead of asking questions, and attempts to correct Lisa’s answers. That’s not fair journalism.

You might wonder why these comments are so terrible at this time. They are especially harmful in a case where the accused was not proven guilty in a court of law. The accuser, who was a diagnosed schizophrenic, gave several conflicting stories to police. She ultimately chose not to testify for reasons we do not know — and there could be countless reasons. To speculate on why she didn’t testify and or what really happened is not only a futile waste of time, it’s unfair for either party.

Yes, someone with a diagnosed mental illness can be raped. Yes, someone who has multiple sexual partners can be raped. I understand many of you don’t know the accuser was suffering from schizophrenia, and those who do may not want to discuss it for fear that people will dismiss crimes against the mentally ill. Don’t let these things deter you. It’s absolutely important to consider this because this young woman’s illness is characterized by

a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behavior, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings, withdrawal from reality and personal relationships into fantasy and delusion, and a sense of mental fragmentation.

That’s not something to be taken lightly or to remove from this scenario.

The truth is, there was a resolution to this case. Bryant apologized to her and fully acknowledged and validated her experience — something that is almost never done in these cases. She made a decision not to pursue criminal charges and they came to a private agreement in her civil case. I would honestly like to know what else people are looking for?

To presume guilt about a case that is forever closed is not only disrespectful to the deceased, but it’s also harmful to the accuser. She is reportedly still living in Colorado. How is it respectful to her to continually bring up this event in the media?

I know many of Gayle’s friends think the backlash is uncalled for, but it’s not. I’m not writing this to discredit anyone’s experience in an interview with Gayle King. Those who have had fair, positive exchanges with her likely did. But this is a situation in which you have to look at what occurred and know it wasn’t right. Although she tried to “clear things up” in her video, she never apologized or acknowledged that she could have handled that part of the interview better. She chose to blame her employer instead.

We all know social media can be a beautiful place and a vile one. Cyberbullying runs rampant. Of course, no one should be called names and so forth, but that’s for those who made those comments to take responsibility for. That is part of the social media space, unfortunately.

Oprah and Gayle are from a different generation, they use social media differently and they clearly aren't used to backlash. Oprah came out in blind loyalty to tell us what? That Twitter is doing what Twitter does to someone weekly? Gayle will have to learn from this and decide if she’s willing to stop passing the blame and open her eyes to see exactly what people found offensive.

I am not an overly-sensitive Kobe fan who can’t grapple with reality. I’m pretty sure anyone with a relative, best friend, romantic partner, etc knows that even the people we love the most are not perfect, and our heroes are people like us. I’m simply looking at the information and seeing that a lot does not add up. Gayle’s interview is one of those things.

And from one professional to another: this kind of side commenting in an interview is not professional in any space. No journalists should find it defendable.

Writer | Multimedia Artist

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