Gayle King Defends Raising Kobe Bryant Rape Allegation in Interview with Lisa Leslie on 'CBS This Morning'

CBS This Morning anchor Gayle King has responded to social media backlash after she questioned WNBA legend Lisa Leslie about rape allegations against Kobe Bryant and how that might complicate the late basketball icon's legacy.

In a statement to USA Today, King said, "I understand why people are upset seeing that clip out of context. I hope they will now watch the entire wide-ranging interview. We asked a longtime friend of Kobe Bryant's to talk to us about his legacy and their friendship and Lisa Leslie did exactly that."

A CBS News spokesperson told Newsweek: ""Gayle conducted a thoughtful, wide-ranging interview with Lisa Leslie about the legacy of Kobe Bryant. An excerpt was posted that did not reflect the nature and tone of the full interview. We are addressing the internal process that led to this and changes have already been made.

In an interview that aired Tuesday, King asked Leslie, a longtime friend of Bryant, "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?"

King also asked Leslie's opinion on whether it is "fair" to talk about the sexual assault claim now that Bryant is dead.

The line of questioning stoked the ire of people on social media after a clip of the interview was shared by the CBS This Morning Twitter account. Among the most vocal critics was rapper 50 Cent.

.@WNBA legend @LisaLeslie told @GayleKing that Kobe Bryant's legacy is "not complicated" for her despite his 2003 rape accusation.

"I don't think it's something that we should keep hanging over his legacy." https://t.co/qj6MVvOaqX pic.twitter.com/9qtVORobLO

— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) February 4, 2020

On Wednesday, 50 Cent posted a video of himself watching the clip and tweeted: "what is this, wait somebody gotta help me understand why they keep doing this."

The deaths of Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna in a helicopter crash near Calabasas, California, on January 26, renewed discussion about the 2003 sexual assault claim against him. The charges were ultimately dropped when the alleged victim chose not to testify. Bryant settled a civil claim with the victim, the terms of which have never been disclosed.

In the wake of his death, there have been conflicting views about whether the claim against Bryant should be scrutinized as part of his legacy.

For her part, Leslie told King that because the criminal case against Bryant was dismissed, "I think that that's how we should leave it."

"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," Leslie said. "I don't think it's something that we should keep hanging over his legacy. I mean, it went to trial."

Leslie also said she had never seen Bryant "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."

This article has been updated with a statement from CBS News.

Gayle King talks Kobe Bryant
Gayle King talks about Kobe Bryant rape allegation with Lisa Leslie. CBS