Gayle King made the history books (again) with one word to R. Kelly: “Robert…”
The CBS newswoman sat down with Stephen Colbert on The Late Show for Thursday’s episode to talk about Kelly’s outburst during her more than 80-minute interview and keeping her cool throughout the situation.
“I could see him getting more heated,” she said. “He was upset with me about some of the questions, that’s okay. He was a little irritated, that’s okay. … So when I see Robert getting very upset and he stands out of his seat, my initial reaction was, ‘Oh God, please don’t leave, please don’t leave, please don’t leave!’ Because we’ve seen him storm out of interviews before, so I thought he was gonna do that and I was thinking, ‘I’m not done with my questions. What can I do to save this interview?'”
She saved the interview by remaining seated, maintaining eye contact, and giving him a moment to calm down.
“When somebody says your name, it is soothing,” King sad. “I’ll say his name, he’ll know that I’m here, and he will eventually sit back down, which he did.”
“I never thought that he was going to hurt me or hit me,” she added. “I never ever thought that. What I was worried about was he was flailing and hitting his fists so violently, I was worried that he would accidentally hit me. But I never thought that he wanted to hurt me in any way.”
King’s interview with Kelly was the first sit-down interview between the R&B singer and press since he was indicted on 10 counts of criminal sexual abuse against four women, three of whom are reportedly underage. Kelly denies any wrongdoing, even as Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly docuseries, detailing multiple allegations of sexual abuse against him, still lingers in the periphery.
King also spoke with Kelly’s two live-in girlfriends, who defended the singer, and CBS is currently working on an hourlong special, The Gayle King Interview with R. Kelly, to air tonight at 8 p.m. ET.
“He keeps saying that, ‘I didn’t do anything wrong. All these women are lying,’ and I go, ‘Everybody is lying except for you?’ That just defies logic,” King recalled. “When I went into the interview Stephen, I knew he wasn’t going to say, ‘You know, Gayle, you’re right. I’ve done terrible things.’ But I did think on some level, he would have a moment of reflection, he would have contrition. So it became very troubling to me to see him, really, just fall apart. I thought we were witnessing the self-destruction of a man having a breakdown and that’s never a good thing to see, never.”