Gayle King, Misogynoir, and the Cancel Principal


The miseducation of a canceling cult of personality has some people wilding out in these social media streets and it’s been this way for a hot minute. Recently, when CBS released a salacious out of context clip of Gayle King interviewing WNBA basketball player Lisa Leslie, asking her Lisa whether she thinks her a recently departed Kobe Bryant’s legacy is complicated due to being accused of sexual assault in 2003, Snoop Dogg, various other Black celebrities, and the general public came charging, torches in tow, ready to revoke her Black person card for daring to even bring up the topic, journalistic integrity be damned.

In an expletive-laden video he posted on Instagram, rapper Saint Snoop Dogg Mahatma Theresa called Gayle King everything but a daughter of Oshun, employing whataboutisms and threatening to come and get her if she brought the topic of the sexual assault accusation up again.

 Sigh…

There's something to be said about how Black men have historically been portrayed by racist white  savior tropes about Black men being unhinged brutes who prey on and rape white women and how white womanhood needs to be protected from them at all costs, by any means necessary. That's a stereotype that warrants unpacking because it has, historically, cost men a LOT... including their lives. All one would have to do is watch D.W. Griffith's disgustingly racist, anti-Black propaganda film, "Birth of a Nation."

I mean, these harmful tropes about Black men are what helped shape anti-Black Jim Crow-era laws and have evolved into right-wing propaganda about thugs and that has prompted racist policies like Stop and Frisk, that give law enforcement officers permission to harass Black men (and even women, to be honest). So, I get how listening to people bring up the sexual assault case in conversations about Kobe Bryant so soon after his death can be triggering for Black folks and prompt them to want to defend his legacy and other Black men. So, there is that layer of it.

But let’s be real, a lot of the vitriol and backlash isn’t coming from this nuanced and historical lens and people are being intellectually dishonest claiming otherwise. It’s also dishonest and unfair to claim that she’s allegedly trying to tarnish Kobe’s image, that she and Oprah have an agenda against Black men, and use old pictures of the two respectively posed next to accused serial rapist, Harvey Weinstein (whose defense attorney Gayle also interviewed and posed hard-hitting questions to last year, in case anyone is interested in taking a break from false narratives) as unfounded excuses to “cancel”, threaten, lie on, and drag an esteemed Black woman journalist because they don’t like that she’s asking legitimate questions about men accused of sexual assault. 

Much of the public outcry is misogynoir…any excuse to castigate a Black woman, particularly one who happens to be best friends with another Black woman in the public eye facing ridicule for daring to attempt to bring sexual assault survivors’ stories to the forefront to hold an accused predator—Russell Simmons, another notable rich Black man in the entertainment industry—accountable. Two Black women who have disparagingly been called “coons” and accused of “trying to bring Black men down” and not adhering to whatever code Black men and people, in general, believe they’re supposed to uphold. That Black people—Black men in particular—feel that they should be exempt from conversations about rape culture in the Black community, that Black women don’t have the right to share their stories of surviving sexual assault or even ask questions on account of history and shared culture is the height of male privilege and says a lot about a demographic of men who seem to think true liberation and equality is them being able to also get away with vile behaviors as they believe white men do and not having to answer for any of it. The whataboutisms they employ seem far more important to them than keeping the most vulnerable in our community safe from harm. 

But there’s also another layer to this conversation about the public denigration of Gayle King and it’s the constant assaults on principled journalists led by the sociopath posturing as President of the United States. Especially on journalists of color and especially on Black women in media. It has been a virtual free-for-all that has made it difficult for journalists to do their jobs and has put their lives and livelihoods at risk.

I came of age watching Gayle King anchor the local news in my home city for WFSB’s Eyewitness News. I've always recalled her being a poised professional who was thoughtful, thorough, and good at her craft. I still feel the same way, so I’m confused why people are so angry that she was doing what any journalist worth their salt is wont to do when interviewing or unpacking the lives of their subjects.

Gayle asked Lisa Leslie a series of questions about the fond memories she holds about meeting her departed friend, who his influences were and the basketball player that informed his career, and what his death means to women’s basketball in addition to a series of other reflective questions, including about his daughter Gigi’s (who also died in the same helicopter crash that claimed her father along with seven others) budding basketball career. And she asked Lisa if she agrees, as has been suggested in the media, that his legacy is complicated due to the sexual assault charge and acknowledged that it had been dismissed in 2003.

She offered Lisa Leslie the opportunity to celebrate her dear friend’s legacy and dispel those things that detract from it. She allowed Lisa Leslie to feel the range of feelings about her friend’s legacy and gently challenged (and I use the word ‘challenged’ loosely) her on whether her opinions about the case are influenced by her affection for her friend. There was no pushing, insensitive prodding, or obscene in how she broached the topic and Lisa did a great job answering the questions. It was a fair and nuanced interview considering the sexual assault case that happened in the early aughts, years before the re-emergence of the #MeToo movement first initiated by activist Tarana Burke in 2006 and that went viral in 2017 in the wake of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein. In a nutshell, Gayle did her job. Folks don’t have to like it, but that is what occurred. She did her job. 
 There’s also something to be said about the way CBS threw Gayle under the bus when they posted a salacious clip out of its context to ensure people would watch. Though they eventually came to Gayle’s defense, it was still an ill-advised move that threw a good journalist to the wolves without forethought or sensitivity to Kobe Bryant’s loved ones.

Didn't they almost have it all? 
Then you have convicted sex offender Bill Cosby—a man who portrayed himself as the moral police while spending years engaging in immoral behaviors—coming out of the woodwork (live from his jail cell) to cheer Snoop Dogg on for standing up for Black men. The same Bill Cosby who once made the rounds on the speaking circuit openly sneering and disdaining the Black community and men like Snoop Dogg; attacking everything from names he deemed too Black, to AAVE, to single mothers. Oh, the irony.

At this point, whether it’s Black women wearing weaves, Lizzo being too fat, Megan Thee Stallion
being too tall, Oprah being too Oprah, and Gayle employing her skills as a journalist to get a well-rounded interview… trying to ascribe a reason or motive as to why people come for Black women so harshly would be folly. It’s unfortunate, but folks need no reason to engage in misogynoir, though I am always a bit more disappointed when fellow Black women beat the drum and windmill against their own interests. Notwithstanding, the people doing the canceling simply don’t have the authority to cancel anybody. We can disagree with things, we can remove ourselves from around people who mean us no good, and we can divest from ideologies and toxic belief systems, but folks don’t have the authority to write-off Gayle King or anybody else. If this were the case and based on some of their past and current behaviors, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, and every other person trying to ring the alarm on Gayle, and other Black women who run afoul of their ridiculous expectations, would have been reduced to a value of zero. Gayle isn’t the one with a shady past or who has built her career bragging about exploiting the Black community and mistreating Black women.

And miss me with calling Gayle, Oprah, or any other Black woman a “coon.” Snoop, 50, and other notable men of their ilk are the main conductors of the coon-cricket express and are poster boys for internalized white supremacist grandstanding and anti-Black shenanigans. To his credit, thanks to some intervention from his mother, Snoop Dogg did finally offer up a public apology with some sense (though encouraging his fan-base to back off would also be icing on the cake), so perhaps it's time for the rest of you all to move on as well. It's not as if Gayle sold the country out to Russia, shoots unarmed Black men, or enacts intra-community violence against Black children.