CBS News president Susan Zirinsky has spoken out about the death threats and other harsh rhetoric being leveled against Gayle King. King has been under fire since bringing up the late Kobe Bryant's sexual assault allegations in an interview last week, and some are still not letting it go. Zirinsky pointed out that this is legitimately dangerous for King.
"We fully support Gayle King and her integrity as a journalist," Zirinsky told The Associated Press. "We find the threats against her or any journalist doing their job reprehensible."
King mentioned Bryant's past allegations on Wednesday in an interview with WNBA star, Lisa Leslie. She asked Leslie if she thought the old allegation complicated Bryant's legacy at all, to which Leslie said no.
To many fans, it was inappropriate to bring up this old charge so soon after Bryant's death. The NBA legend died on Sunday, Jan. 26 in a horrific helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. The sexual assault allegation dates back to 2003, and the criminal case was dropped in favor of a civil lawsuit, which Bryant settled out of court.
King's critics said that the question was opportunistic, and some also argued that it betrayed a double standard in the media. They said that a white celebrity of Bryant's status would not have this case brought up after his untimely death.
"I know that if I had only seen the clip that you saw, I’d be extremely angry with me, too," she said. "I am mortified. I am embarrassed and I am very angry. Unbeknownst to me, my network put up a clip from a very wide-ranging interview — totally taken out of context — and when you see it that way, it's very jarring. It's jarring to me. I didn’t even know anything about it."
CBS News later issued a statement admitting that the clip "did not reflect the nature of the nature and tone of the full interview." The network said it is "addressing the internal process that led to this and changes have already been made."
Still Zirinsky's statement shows that the company has a firm stance in defense of King, especially when it comes to her personal safety. On Friday, Oprah Winfrey confirmed that King "now has death threats and has to now travel with security" in an interview on The Today Show.
"I'm a non-violent person. When I said what I said, I spoke for the people who felt that that Gayle was very disrespectful toward Kobe and his family," he said. "I didn't want no harm to come to her, I didn't threaten her. We speak from the heart. Some of you who have no heart don't understand that."