March 20, 2019

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How Gayle King Kept Her Cool in the R. Kelly Interview

How Gayle King Kept Her Cool in the R. Kelly Interview
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[Read our critic’s review of Gayle King’s full primetime interview of R. Kelly on CBS.]

How did the interview come about?

Somebody on his team reached out to me on Thursday [Feb. 28] and asked if I would be interested in talking to him, and I’m like, uh, R. Kelly himself? Yes, I’d be very interested. They said, when would you like to do it? I said, is he available tomorrow? The earliest he could do it would be Tuesday, would you be able to fly to Chicago on Tuesday? I said, count me present. [Mr. Kelly was free on bail, but went back to jail the day after the interview for failure to pay child support. He was released again on Saturday.]

What ground rules did you set up?

They didn’t want any questions about Aaliyah, which I was fine with. I feel we have heard the Aaliyah story. Really, this interview was about R. Kelly’s reaction to the “Surviving R. Kelly” documentary and the latest charges, and they said he cannot discuss the latest charges because those are still in court. O.K., fine. I still feel we had a lot of information to get from R. Kelly.

What was going through your mind when he got hysterical?

I could see it escalating, but I didn’t think he was going to jump out of his chair. Even when he jumped out of the chair, I have to say, I didn’t think he was going to do anything to me. It’s just that he was extremely emotional and extremely worked up.

The problem is when you get that out of control — the way he was hitting his fist and the way that he was cursing, the intensity of his voice — sometimes you can’t control yourself, so I just didn’t want to get hit accidentally. So I just decided, let me just sit here very quietly, and I would look at him to let him know, I’m not getting up. I worried that if I got up, that would say to him, this is over, this interview is over, even on a subliminal level, it’s O.K. to leave.

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