Gayle King, R.Kelly, Journalism Competence And The King’s Pass

For some reason—OK, I think I know the reasons—CBS morning host Gayle King is getting plaudits for mishandling the insane R.Kelly interview last week. The photo below  says it all: Kelly, his reputation and career falling apart in chunks because the years of rumors and accounts of his alleged sexual misconduct with underage girls finally caught up to the hip-hop superstar (thanks to an explosive documentary—hmmm, where have we heard that before?— is standing, shouting, ranting and generally going bonkers as King sits immobile and silent, with her eyes cast down.

There were two exhibitions of the King’s Pass on display in the interview and its aftermath. Kelly, being allowed to behave outrageously on the air was one, for most guests in any setting would be ordered to sit down, act civilly, or leave the studio after such an infantile and threatening display. King was the other, praised for showing that her frequent feminist rhetoric was convenient claptrap, and that she did not have the guts or principle to assert her power over an abusive male when professional ethics demanded it.

I’m not sure which is more unforgivable. CNN said that King’s passivity was a masterclass in journalism. The Washington Post praised her “composure.” She told the New York Times that she was silently thinking, “Don’t walk off the set. Don’t walk off the set.” A competent journalist should have given him a warning, and then had him thrown off the set. A female professional who had the integrity to demonstrate how women should handle male abuse would have demanded that he sit down, apologize, or leave. They train salespeople and operators to push back against abusive customers, but a national TV host doesn’t have the fortitude to act when a guest behaves like a berserk barbarian? Continue reading