(Nbcnews) – Oprah Winfrey got emotional as she discussed how her best friend, journalist Gayle King, has been receiving death threats over her interview with WNBA star Lisa Leslie on Kobe Bryant’s legacy.
King came under fire after a short clip of her “CBS This Morning” interview showed her asking Leslie about Bryant’s 2003 sexual assault case.
Her reference to the case in the wake of the death of Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and seven others in a Jan. 26 helicopter crash led to swift and intense outrage on social media.
During a discussion Friday on NBC’s “Today with Hoda & Jenna” that touched on numerous topics, Oprah briefly opened up about how King has been handling the criticism.
“She is not doing well. May I say she is not doing well because she has now death threats, and now has to travel with security, and she’s feeling very much attacked,” Oprah said, tearing up.
Oprah said King feels 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.”
The backlash didn’t begin until “somebody at the network put up that clip,” she said. “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.”
Oprah also said her friend has not been sleeping, but will be OK.
In a video clip posted to the “CBS This Morning” Twitter account Tuesday, King asks Leslie if “as a woman, as a WNBA player,” she thinks Bryant’s legacy is “complicated” by the rape charge.
Leslie, who was longtime friends with Bryant, responds: “It’s not complicated for me at all.”
Bryant was accused of raping a 19-year-old hotel worker in Colorado in 2003. The basketball star, who married his wife, Vanessa, in 2001, admitted to having sex with the woman but said it was consensual. The case was dropped after the accuser declined to testify. A civil suit was later settled.
During the interview with Leslie, King asks further questions about the case and raises the possibility that bringing it up may not be fair, “considering he’s no longer with us, and that it was resolved.” Alternatively, she asks, “Is it really part of his history?”
Leslie tells King that she thinks the media should be respectful during this time and says it’s not something she feels people “should keep hanging over his legacy.”
Many people on social media slammed King, including celebrities such as Snoop Dogg. On Thursday, the rapper posted an expletive-laden video to Instagram accusing King of trying to tarnish Bryant’s reputation and telling her to back off “before we come get you.”
King responded to the backlash in two videos shared on her Twitter account, blaming CBS for posting only a small portion of her interview with Leslie without providing the full context.
“I know that if I had only seen the clip that you saw, I would be extremely angry with me too. I am mortified. I’m 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.”
King said that during her conversation with Leslie they talked about Bryant’s career, his sense of humor, how he was a mentor to many people, and his looking forward to the next chapter in his life.
A spokesperson for CBS acknowledged that the excerpt the network posted online “did not reflect the nature and tone of the full interview.”
“Gayle conducted a thoughtful, wide-ranging interview with Lisa Leslie about the legacy of Kobe Bryant,” the statement read. “We are addressing the internal process that led to this and changes have already been made.”