Gayle King is being lauded for her composure during an interview with R. Kelly, who exploded while speaking with the CBS journalist about the accusations that he sexually abused underage girls.
Kelly, whose real name is Robert, was charged in February with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse involving four alleged victims, three of whom were underage, according to Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.
Kelly has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which came after the release of the Lifetime docu-series “Surviving R. Kelly.” The six-part documentary featured several women who accused Kelly of abuse dating back to the 1990s. Kelly denies all the allegations.
During a nearly 80-minute interview with King, Kelly said Tuesday that his accusers have lied and he never had sex with a minor.
But King pushed back on his assertions, saying: “I have to tell you, it’s so hard to believe that, based on all that we’ve read and what the women have said about you.”
Kelly repeated his assertions that the women who have come forward are not telling the truth, saying: “I have been assassinated, I have been buried alive, but I’m alive.”
He denied ever holding anyone against their will before turning his focus away from King and instead directly onto the camera, for what became a monologue on his innocence.
“I don't need to. Why would I? How stupid would it be for R. Kelly, with all I've been through in my way, way past, to hold somebody, let alone 4, 5, 6, 50, you said – why – how stupid would I be to do that?!" Kelly said.
King tried to interject, but Kelly continued on.
“I didn't say you were holding –" King said.
"That's stupid, guys! Is this camera on me?" Kelly interrupted.
"Yes," King said.
"That's stupid! Use your common sense,” Kelly continued.
Kelly’s speech continued for several moments before he became emotional, yelling, screaming, jumping up from his seat and waving his arms inches from King’s face.
“I'm fighting for my f***ing life! Y'all killing me with this sh*t!" Kelly said, standing up. "I gave you 30 years of my f***ing career!"
King, who remained calm, tried to interject again. "Robert –"
But Kelly continued. "Thirty years of my career! And y'all trying to kill me? You killing me, man! This is not about music! I'm trying to have a relationship with my kids! And I can't do it! Y'all just don't want to believe the truth! You don't want to believe it!"
The interview was then paused as Kelly’s publicist calmed him, but even after he sat back down, his emotions were raw.
"This is not true! That doesn't even make sense! Why would I hold all these women? Their fathers and mothers told me, ‘We're going to destroy your career!’"
“Robert, we have to have a conversation. I don't want you just ranting at the camera," King later said.
He noted he had a big heart. "People betray me, and I keep forgiving them!” Kelly said.
“You sound like you're playing the victim here,” King said. “You sound like, R. Kelly – you do. I listen to you and it does sound like you're playing the victim card.”
Kelly said he was trying to tell the truth and apologized for being emotional, but noted his interview with King was the first time he has been able to speak out.
“I’ve said nothing!” he said.
In discussing her sit-down with Kelly, King acknowledged having to remain calm.
“It wouldn’t do any good if we both got hysterical, or if we both got very emotional,” she said on "CBS This Morning."
Her unwavering demeanor was praised by viewers who took to social media to reflect on what they had seen.
“This is wild. @GayleKing is again teaching a master’s class in interviewing,” PBS News Hour White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor tweeted. “She remains so calm and focused while @rkelly loses it.”
“Bravo @GayleKing for calm and stead focus during #RKelly interview,” King’s best friend, Oprah Winfrey, wrote on Twitter. “Outstanding job! Tell @CBSThisMorning we want to see the whole thing.”
“The symbol of women everywhere,” Zara Rahim, head of strategic communications at The Wing, tweeted, sharing a screen grab of King sitting calmly as Kelly waved his arm near her face. “Tired. Fed up. Used to your lies. Over your tears. Composed to stunning degree. @GayleKing ❤️.”
"CBS This Morning" plans to share more of its interview with Kelly on Thursday.
Kelly faces up to 70 years in prison if he is convicted on all charges.