NEW YORK — The CBS News chief called threats against journalist Gayle King “reprehensible” Saturday as backlash grew against rapper Snoop Dogg and others critical of King for an interview where she asked about a sexual assault charge against the late Kobe Bryant.
Snoop Dogg issued a warning to King online this week following her interview with WNBA player Lisa Leslie about Bryant, the former Los Angeles Lakers star killed in a helicopter crash with his young daughter and seven others on Jan. 26.
“We fully support Gayle King and her integrity as a journalist,” CBS News President Susan Zirinsky told The Associated Press. “We find the threats against her or any journalist doing their job reprehensible.”
CBS would not discuss the nature of any private threats against King. Her friend, Oprah Winfrey, said in an NBC interview that King had received death threats and was traveling with security.
The rapper had joined with others, including LeBron James, 50 Cent and even Bill Cosby, in criticizing King for asking Leslie whether Bryant’s legacy had been complicated by the accusation that he raped a woman at a Colorado resort in 2003. Bryant said the two had consensual sex, but he later apologized for his behavior and settled a civil suit against him.
In a profane video posted on Instagram and shared on other social media platforms, Snoop Dogg criticized King for attacking “your people.” He told her to “back off ... before we come get you.”
King’s questions had attracted little notice as part of a wide-ranging interview shown on “CBS This Morning.” But then CBS — mistakenly, it said later — posted a video online that focused strictly on the discussion about the assault case.
“The interview with Lisa Leslie was comprehensive and thoughtful,” Zirinsky said. “We are a country where differences of opinion are welcome, but hateful and dangerous threats are completely unacceptable.”
King’s critics essentially voiced some variation of what Leslie answered — that the media should be more respectful of Bryant so soon after his death and not discuss this stain upon his record — although usually in sharper terms.
Besides her boss, other people have begun coming to King’s defense, including Sen. Cory Booker, former U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice and NBC morning show host Willie Geist.
“For those threatening her and inciting violence, stop it immediately,” the New Jersey senator tweeted. “This is unacceptable. We must do better.”
Rice, on Twitter, said Snoop Dogg’s video was despicable and she told him to back off.
“You come against Gayle King, you come against an army,” R ice wrote. “You will lose, and it won’t be pretty.”
On Saturday, Snoop Dogg posted a message on his Instagram that said he meant King no harm.
“I’m a non-violent person. When I said what I said, I spoke for the people who felt that that Gayle was very disrespectful toward Kobe and his family,” he said. “I didn’t want no harm to come to her, I didn’t threaten her.”
He added: “We speak from the heart. Some of you who have no heart don’t understand that.”
Geist, from the “Today” show and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” tweeted that “the threats against Gayle King for asking a fair question in the course of a long interview are absolutely disgusting. Gayle is one of the most thoughtful people in our business.”
New Yorker writer Jelani Cobb tweeted that there was a way to disagree with King’s questions “without lapsing into misogyny, threats and ignorance.”
In an essay posted on the web site The Undefeated, Morehouse College journalism professor David Dennis Jr. wondered why it was two black women — King and Leslie — who were the ones publicly wrestling with this aspect of Bryan’t legacy.
“We, myself included, have to take time in our healing to try to understand why we either forgave Bryant or never bothered to hold him accountable,” Dennis wrote. “It’s fair to believe that the work Bryant put in for women in sports in the years since the rape allegation have shown true contrition and rehabilitation, but nothing will erase that night ... To demand silence over the case does an injustice to the victims of sexual violence as well as the work Bryant did to try to make it right.”