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Gayle King

The Jeopardy of Journalism

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By Brian Hurwitz

Gayle King has been subjected to a firestorm of criticism and a number of death threats following her interview with basketball legend Lisa Leslie. The controversy resulted from King asking Leslie her opinion as to whether or not Kobe Bryant's legacy was complicated by allegations of rape leveled at him in 2003. There is no question that Bryant's passing was tragic. And the love and support that has been expressed for him in the wake of his demise have been inspiring. But in mentioning the one stain on Bryant's otherwise spotless personal and professional life, didi King step over the line or was she merely doing her job?

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Oprah Winfrey
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This morning, King's close friend and confidant, media mogul Oprah Winfrey, appeared on the Today Show. She did so to both defend King and to explain the motives behind the question that sparked such outrage. In doing so, Oprah added fuel to the fire as people took to social media to express their anger at her apparent support for King. Some believe King's question came too soon after Bryant's death and argue she should let his family mourn in peace. Others are quick to point out the charges against Bryant were dismissed and should never have been mentioned.

Kobe Bryant
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King's subsequent apologies have, for the most part, fallen on deaf ears. Her attempts to explain her motivation in asking the question that derailed the interview have been, by and large, dismissed. Many of those weighing in on social media were particularly appalled by what they saw as King throwing Bryant and Black men like him under the bus owing to an isolated incident for which Bryant never got to face his accuser in court. During the interview, Leslie was quick to defend Bryant and expressed that she did not believe the allegation should haunt his legacy

Evan Rachel Wood
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Whether or not King's question was inappropriate can only be settled in the court of public opinion. However, in the days after Bryant's death, others did not hesitate to remind the grieving public about that same accusation. Actress Evan Rachel Wood praised Bryant's legacy while also questioning it. And, just hours after his death, a reporter at the Washington Post tweeted an article originally posted on The Daily Beast which detailed the sexual assault allegations against Bryant. Both women faced severe backlash, with the reporter being temporarily suspended by the Post.

Gayle King
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Journalists are expected to ask questions and conduct interviews with integrity. When they step over the line, no matter how far, the public is as fast to censure them as they are to forget them. Many of King's critics were left wondering why she did not make a similar inquiry into Harvey Weinstein's legacy, a man with whom she had been frequently photographed before his arrest for numerous sexual assault allegations. In light of her interview with Lisa Leslie, the focus appears to have shifted from Bryant's legacy to her's. Will it be forever tarnished owing to that inquiry? Only time will tell.

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