Appearing on TODAY With Hoda & Jenna on Friday, a tearful Winfrey said King hasn't been doing well since facing backlash for the interview.
“She has now death treats and has to now travel with security and she’s feeling very much attacked," Winfrey said.
The 66-year-old said a clip of the interview was shared out of context and King "feels that she was put in a really terrible position.”
“In the context of the interview, everyone seemed fine, including Lisa Leslie," Winfrey said. "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. Obviously all things pass, she will be okay, but she hasn’t slept in two days.”
Since the interview, celebrities like rappers Snoop Dogg and Lil Boosie have both threatened King and referred to her out of her name.
"Anybody can criticize anything, but the misogynistic vitriol to the point where it is dangerous to be in the streets alone ..." Winfrey said. "Because it's not just the people who are attacking. It's the other people who feel like they can take that message and do whatever they want."
.@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
In the interview on CBS This Morning, King asked the retired WNBA player about the challenge of looking at Bryant's legacy after his death.
“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 asked the 47-year-old.
Leslie responded that "it's not complicated at all."
“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," the WNBA legend said. "That’s just not the person that I know.”
King then asked if it's fair to talk about the sexual assault case after it was already solved.
“I think that the media should be more respectful at this time,” Leslie said, adding that the case has been closed and "that’s how we should leave it.”
.@WNBA legend @LisaLeslie told @GayleKing that Kobe Bryant's legacy is "not complicated" for her despite his 2003 rape accusation.— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) February 4, 2020
"I don't think it's something that we should keep hanging over his legacy." https://t.co/qj6MVvOaqX pic.twitter.com/9qtVORobLO
Actress Vivica A. Fox was among the many people who went to social media to criticize the interview.
"MUCH LUV & RESPECT goes to @WNBA LEGEND QUEEN Lisa Leslie for your AMAZING support of @kobebryant," Fox said. "Waking up to this interview and was just really pissed off! LIKE YO! I realize folks gotta do they job but this is…"
Another person on Twitter said asking "Lisa about Kobe’s alleged sexual assault while she’s mourning his death was truly nasty. Charges were dismissed over 10 years ago and during his time of death that’s what you focus on... Your agenda is calculated."
That @GayleKing interview with Lisa Leslie was distasteful. To ask Lisa about Kobe’s alleged sexual assault while she’s mourning his death was truly nasty. Charges were dismissed over 10 years ago and during his time of death that’s what you focus on... Your agenda is calculated— boogie (@xyy_toi) February 5, 2020
After receiving backlash for the interview, King went to Instagram to make a statement.
“I’ve been up reading the comments about the interview I did with Lisa Leslie about Kobe Bryant. And I know that if I had only seen the clip that you saw, I’d be extremely angry with me too. I am mortified, I am embarrassed and I am very angry,” she said. “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.”
In a statement to People, a CBS News spokesperson said “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.”
Winfrey said “everybody has the right to have their opinion,” but people need to express themselves without “hate and meanness.”
“You know, I was on the phone with her this morning, I was on the phone with her last night, I was on the phone with her the night before,” Winfrey said. “I think 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 particularly people who didn’t see either interview, making attacks.”