Oprah Winfrey is speaking out for the first time since her close friend Gayle King sparked criticism after she brought up Kobe Bryant's past rape allegations in an interview with retired WNBA star, Lisa Leslie. Speaking with co-hosts Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager on Friday's segment of Today With Hoda & Jenna about the controversy, Winfrey came to King's defense, revealing that amid the backlash, she is receiving "death threats."
.@Oprah emotionally responds to backlash her friend Gayle King received over King’s recent interview about Kobe Bryant with WNBA legend Lisa Leslie: “She is not doing well because she has now death threats.” pic.twitter.com/M8HrCp8vTr— TODAY with Hoda & Jenna (@HodaAndJenna) February 7, 2020
"She's not doing well," Winfrey revealed, growing emotional. "May I say, she is not doing well because she has now death threats, and has to now travel with security and she's feeling very much attacked."
Referencing Bill Cosby's recent Instagram post from prison, Winfrey said that King is "not doing well and feels that she was put in a really terrible position because that interview had already ran."
"And in the context of the interview, everyone seemed fine, including Lisa Leslie and it was only because somebody at the network put up that clip and I can see how people would obviously be very upset if you thought that Gayle was just trying to press to get an answer from Lisa Leslie," she continued. "But obviously all things pass, she will be okay but she hasn't slept in two days."
"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, and the other people who take that message and feel like they can do whatever they want because of it," Winfrey said.
Acknowledging that "everybody has the right to have their opinion," Winfrey criticized those who are doing so "with such vitriol, hate and meanness," explaining that she is offering King support by speaking to her every day since the interview.
"You stand in the gap, you try to be there for your friends but this is very hard because when you have social media and the force of social media and people who didn't see either interview, making attacks, and I think everybody has the right to have their opinion but to do it with such vitriol, hate and meanness," she said.
Winfrey's comments come just days after CBS News released an excerpt from King's interview with Leslie, focusing on her response to King's question about the 2003 rape allegations Bryant faced, during which asked Leslie if the allegations make the NBA legend's legacy "complicated."
"It's not complicated for me at all," Leslie replied. "I have never 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."
The clip immediately sparked backlash, and King later addressed the criticism on Instagram, calling CBS' decision to air the clip "jarring." She added that the clip was shared "unbeknownst" to her and that it was "totally taken out of context."
"I really want people to understand what happened here and how I'm feeling about it," King continued. "I believe that Lisa was OK with the interview and I felt really good about the interview."
Photo credit: Ida Mae Astute/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images