While appearing on Hoda & Jenna & Friends on Friday, Winfrey began to cry as she detailed the difficult situation King has found herself in as the backlash has intensified.
“I think the last 24 hours for your best friend have been pretty difficult after that interview with Lisa Leslie about Kobe. And I just wondered just how she’s doing,” co-anchor Hoda Kotb asked.
“She is not doing well,” Winfrey replied, tearing up. “She has now death threats and has to now travel with security and she’s feeling very much attacked. You know, Bill Cosby is tweeting from jail.”
Winfrey said King, who has previously spoken out about how a clip of the interview was shared out of context, “feels that she was put in a really terrible position.”
“In the context of the interview, everyone seemed fine, including Lisa Leslie. 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,” Winfrey continued. “Obviously all things pass, she will be okay, but she hasn’t slept in two days.”
Winfrey emphasized that the problem comes when “the misogynist vitriol and the attacking” reaches the point “where it is dangerous to be in the streets alone.”
“It’s not just the people who are attacking. It’s the other people who take that message and feel like they can do whatever they want to because of it, you know?” she added, noting that as her friend weathers the storm, all she can do is support her.
“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.”
While Winfrey stressed that “everybody has the right to have their opinion,” she draws the line when people choose to express themselves with such “hate, and meanness.”
NBA legend Bryant died in a tragic helicopter crash earlier this month at the age of 41, alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other passengers. According to the Los Angeles Times, a service will be held at the Staples Center on Feb. 24.
In the full interview, released Tuesday on CBS This Morning, King brought up the case about halfway through.
“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 Leslie, 47.
“It’s not complicated for me at all,” Leslie replied. “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. That’s just not the person that I know.”
King inquired whether the athlete thought the question was “fair” since Bryant is dead and that the case “was resolved.”
“I think that the media should be more respectful at this time,” Leslie replied, later noting that as the case was eventually dismissed. “I think that’s how we should leave it.”
King first addressed the backlash in an Instagram video on Thursday.
“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.”
“I’ve been advised to say nothing — just let it go. ‘People will drag you, people will troll you, it’ll be over in a couple of days.’ But that’s not good enough for me because I really want people to understand what happened here and how I’m feeling about it,” she added.
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.”