TV journalist Gayle King is being lauded for her impressive and ever-professional interview with disgraced R&B singer R. Kelly, who stands accused of ten counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.
The CBS This Morning co-anchor sat down with Kelly for an exclusive interview, marking the first time he’s spoken out publicly since he was taken into police custody for the aforementioned crimes and later released on bond. Throughout the interview, King remained poised, asking Kelly straight-forward questions in a clear effort to get to the truth, despite Kelly becoming increasingly agitated.
After Kelly claimed that everyone who’s spoken out against him was lying, she questioned why his female accusers would possibly make up these stories about him. When Kelly argued that any celebrity could be hit with allegations of sexual assault (via The Wrap), King smartly replied that “people have gone their whole careers” without having “the allegations that have been leveled against” him. Clearly, King wasn’t interested in any B.S.
When Kelly stood up in a rage, banging his chest and moving his arms about angrily — upset at the allegations against him — King didn’t even flinch. She remained seated throughout the ordeal, allowing Kelly to vent while still maintaining control of the situation. What a pro!
After Kelly was excused to compose himself, he largely spoke to the camera when he came back — rather than to King. “Robert, we have to have a conversation,” King gently scolded. “I don’t want you just ranting at the camera.”
And when Kelly told King that he needed somebody to “help [him] not have a big heart” — because, he said, “People betray me, and I keep forgiving them” — she countered, “You sound like you’re playing the victim here. … You’re playing the victim card.” Let that be a lesson to Kelly: Don’t try to mess with Gayle King.
When her colleagues at CBS This Morning complimented her for keeping her composure during the undoubtedly difficult interview, King replied, “Well, it wouldn’t do any good if we both got hysterical … or if we both got very emotional.”
After Gayle King’s interview with R. Kelly aired, many took to social media to praise the journalist. Ava DuVernay, who’s directed films like Selma and A Wrinkle in Time, tweeted out in response to videos of the interview, “There’s a lot going on in these R. Kelly clips. But one thing that jumps out is how direct, super clear and no frills these questions are by @GayleKing.” DuVernay went on, “She’s asking exactly what most of us would ask if we were in her seat. Crazy how refreshing it is. Speaks to how rare it is.”
White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor wrote in a post, “This is wild. @GayleKing is again teaching a master’s class in interviewing. She remains so calm and focused while @rkelly loses it.”
Activist DeRay Mckesson said, as noted by The Wrap, “R Kelly isn’t even talking to Gayle so much as he’s talking to the camera. He wants this interview to be another performance. He wasn’t ready for Gayle’s stellar and unflappable style.”
Even King’s famous BFF Oprah Winfrey had to speak out about her superb interview, tweeting, “Bravo @GayleKing for calm and and steady focus during #RKelly interview. Outstanding job!”
Speaking to O, The Oprah Magazine, of which she serves as the editor-at-large, King opened up about her experience interviewing Kelly, noting that, despite his emotional state, she “was not scared.” She noted, “I was never worried he was going to hurt me. I was more worried that he was going to get up and leave.”
However, she did admit, “I did worry at some points that he might accidentally hit me, because he was so angry that he was flailing. But I knew that I wasn’t in any real danger.”
Since the interview has aired, R. Kelly has been largely criticized for his demeanor, with many taking to Twitter to cast their opinions that he’s guilty of some or all of the allegations against him. Lawyer Michael Avenatti, who’s representing two of Kelly’s alleged victims, tweeted out, “Key things we learned from the R. Kelly interview: 1. R Kelly is a much better singer than he is an actor; 2. He is desperate and distraught because he knows he has been caught. 3. He thinks sexual assault of young girls in the ‘way way past’ cannot be charged. 4. He is guilty.”
Since being charged with aggravated criminal sexual abuse, Kelly has pleaded not guilty and has maintained his innocence.