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On The Late Show, Gayle King talks keeping cool in the face of R. Kelly meltdowns, Fox News racism

Gayle King, Stephen Colbert
Screenshot: The Late Show

Stephen Colbert engaged in a little CBS programming synergy on Thursday’s Late Show, inviting CBS This Morning co-host Gayle King on to publicize her now-infamous interview with embattled singer and multiply accused pedophile R. Kelly. With the widely shared photo (snapped by King’s makeup guy) of Kelly, mid-rant, gesticulating forcefully over the unimpressed and seated King serving as everyone’s indelible image of the encounter, Colbert asked King if she had felt threatened in the moment. “I really wasn’t worried,” said King about the interaction, claiming that her only real concern in the heat of things was that Kelly, as he’s done multiple times in the past, would storm out and leave her without an interview. With Colbert praising her composure as akin to “a graven image from a temple or something,” King reiterated that she never felt like she was in physical danger—at least not intentionally. She did admit that the thought crossed her mind that the emotional Kelly might accidentaly sock her one while he vociferously protested his innocence.

The entire interview airs Friday at 8 p.m. on CBS, serving as a companion piece to Lifetime’s damning documentary miniseries Surviving R. Kelly. In addition to asking Kelly those questions he really didn’t care for about the allegations that he’s spent decades pursuing sexual relationships with underage girls, King told Colbert about interviewing the 52-year-old singer’s two current live-in girlfriends, aged 21 and 23, and how Kelly snuck back into the room in order to signal his displeasure with King’s questions to them. Saying that Kelly—who’d originally promised to absent himself—could be heard both debating with her staff and coughing loudly to seemingly signal the two women, King continued to be serenely baffled by Kelly’s behavior. “I did think that, on some level, he could have a moment of reflection, he would have contrition,” King told Colbert, before summing up her experience by saying, “I thought we were witnessing the self-destruction of a man having a breakdown.”

King’s vaunted composure also served her well when confronting not just an enraged suspected sex monster, but a smirking right-wing dingbat as well, as she told Colbert about how she responded to Fox News’ Jesse Watters confusing her, on-air, with fellow black woman broadcaster and completely different human being Robin Roberts. After noted race-baiting failed comedian and current contestant for the coveted “most racist”/“least competent” Fox News personality prize Watters condescendingly complimented King for redeeming herself after her interview with apparent false-report-filer Jussie Smollett, Watters’ co-host Dana Perino corrected Watters as to the fact that, yes, two different black women hold high-profile interviewer positions. Which King says she appreciated and all, sending an email thanking Perino, while slipping in the politely icy request that Perino “let the rest of [her] colleagues know that not all black people look alike.” As the saying goes, don’t come at the King.


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Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.