Gayle King has not been sleeping well. The “CBS This Morning” co-host has been disturbed by the weight of the world events she covers for CBS News. The brutal death of George Floyd has spurred emotional moments on live TV and tough conversations with friends and family, including her adult children — daughter Kirby and son Will. A veteran news anchor, King is known for her sunny demeanor, her love of brightly colored dresses and the amazing professionalism she demonstrated in her March 2019 sit-down with accused sexual predator R. Kelly, among other recent interview coups. But last week (during the week of June 1) she wore black on “CBS This Morning” all five days as a means of “honoring difficult times.”
From George Floyd’s death and its aftermath to the upheaval wreaked by the pandemic, you’ve been covering all of it daily for CBS News. Is it hard to keep your composure in the face of tragedy?
My heart is very heavy. I feel deep despair. I’m so deeply affected by what I’m seeing and hearing. I know we are objective in news — that’s the job — but I’m not a robot. I’m just hoping it’s going to lead to some kind of substantial change and that something really meaningful will come out of all this pain. You can’t look at the George Floyd video and not feel that this is too much. Anybody with a beating heart can see that. But it feels different this time. I’ve had more white people reach out to me to say, “How are you doing?” The answer is, not well.
Do you have coping techniques? How have you adapted to quarantine conditions?
I feel that doing the news is my form of service. I get something nearly every day from someone who says, “I’m so glad you guys are on the air. It lets us know there are some things we can count on.” Somebody said to me, “Gayle, you have a press pass for life.” I don’t take any of this lightly. I feel privileged and honored to do it.
And because of the coronavirus you are still working in unusual conditions from your home.
I am a roll-with-the-punches kind of girl. Maya Angelou told me once, “Whining is so unbecoming. It lets them know there’s a victim in the neighborhood.” Bitching and moaning will only get you so far. We just gotta say, “What do we need, and how do we make it work?” and not worry about the stuff that we don’t have.
What in your early career best prepared you to be a roll-with-the-punches kind of person on live TV?
People asked me, “How were you able to stay so composed with R. Kelly?” Had that happened to me as a baby reporter, it would have totally freaked me out. Everything you do prepares you for the next thing. It takes a lot to get me rattled.
You spoke in that moment “as the daughter of a Black man and the mother of a Black man.” It was compelling and heartbreaking.
A friend of mine has twins Will’s age. Her son called her crying, saying, “Mom, we do everything right, and at the end of the day it doesn’t matter.” What can you say to that? A lot of Black mothers are having these conversations these days. Over the weekend, my kids and I were on the phone at 4 o’clock in the morning, just the three of us. We all felt such deep sadness about what was happening. We just cried on the phone together.
You said it feels different this time. Does the public response to Floyd’s death give you hope that change is possible?
The silver lining that I do see is police interacting with protesters in a way we haven’t seen before. Police kneeling with protesters — Black and white police officers. They know the name “George Floyd” everywhere, even in London and New Zealand.