When “CBS This Morning” host Gayle King sat down with R. Kelly, a musician who was arrested last month after being accused of sexually abusing several women, viewers probably expected some contentious moments. But one moment in particular left viewers in shock — and in awe of King’s composure.
Kelly agreed to sit down with King less than two weeks after Cook County prosecutors charged him with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. The indictment claims that Kelly committed the crimes against four women, three of whom were between 13 and 16 years old at the time. The singer has maintained his innocence.
At one point, King asks Kelly about the allegation that he held some of the women against their will. “The point you’re making is, you’ve never held anybody against their will?” she asks, before Kelly quickly interrupts.
“I don’t need to! Why would I?” he said. “How stupid would it be for R. Kelly, with all I’ve been through in my way, way past … how stupid would I be to do that?”
“That’s stupid, use your common sense,” he adds. Kelly grows more and more agitated as King calmly interjects before ultimately letting him continue.
“Quit playing. I didn’t do this stuff! This is not me!” he shouts, beating his chest and using several profanities. Kelly rises from his seat and begins to shout and gesture aggressively.
“I gave you all 30 years of my career! Thirty years of my career! Y’all trying to kill me!” he screams, pointing aggressively at the cameras. “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 entire time, King sits perfectly still, waiting for the outburst to end. The moment was captured in a still image by photographer Lazarus Jean-Baptiste, which shows King seated calmly, staring straight ahead while Kelly stands, mouth open in a shout, and gestures angrily while an unseen man holds him back.
As video clips spread across social media Wednesday, it was this still photo of a professional woman remaining calm in the face of a man losing control that became the most indelible image from the interview.
A slide show King posted on Instagram that featured a similar image has received more than 31,000 likes and was also shared by Twitter users.
More than one Twitter user likened it to a dramatic work of art.
King earned praise from her fellow journalists for handling the situation with composure. And, of course, her longtime best friend weighed in.
“This is wild,” tweeted Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for PBS NewsHour. “@GayleKing is again teaching a master’s class in interviewing. She remains so calm and focused while @rkelly loses it.”
On Wednesday, King spoke about the encounter on “CBS This Morning.”
“He became very, very emotional many, many times during the interview. I actually think that he needs help,” she said.
“In some ways we were seeing a breakdown right before our eyes,” King said. “He composed himself and came back because he does want people to hear him. But he does think the world is out to get him and everybody is lying.”
A previous version of this story miscredited the photographer of the image of Kelly and King. The photographer is Lazarus Jean-Baptiste, and the story has been corrected.