In the wake of the interview with R. Kelly that aired on CBS this week, praise has been nearly universal for interviewer Gayle King, who remained composed as Kelly rose from his seat and lost his composure during the interview.
One Fox News host Wednesday had another bit of praise for King — in which he confused her with someone else.
Jesse Watters, the Fox News fixture, appeared on The Five on the network Wednesday. In a discussion of the R. Kelly interview, Watters said (per a tweeted video by Yashar Ali) “hats off to Gayle King for totally redeeming herself after the Smollett fiasco.”
However, the “Smollett fiasco” — the nationally televised interview last month in which actor Jussie Smollett stuck with the story that he had actually been attacked the previous month in Chicago — was not conducted by Gayle King. It was, in fact, Robin Roberts, as was pointed out by colleague Dana Perino, who had interviewed Smollett.
“That was not Gayle King,” Perino said almost immediately after Watters’ faux pas.
“I knew that,” Watters replied. He then apologized and said, “sorry for Robin Roberts, out there.”
Robin Roberts and Gayle King have both been national television personalities for many years, although they don’t have a great deal in common with one another, except that both are African-American woman newscasters who are around the same age. The also work for different networks — Roberts works for ABC News and King for CBS.
“King’s interview of Kelly has been widely praised. The morning show host maintained her composure as the R&B singer exploded in frustration and broke down in tears.” https://t.co/KQ9OCLERPE— TheNobleJournalist (@noblejonesontv) March 7, 2019
The mistake led to a lot of mockery for Watters on social media and elsewhere, some of which brought up a previous racial incident involving the host, a 2016 segment in which he visited New York’s Chinatown and asked what were considered insensitive questions. The segment was denounced at the time as “rude, offensive, mocking, derogatory and damaging” by the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), per Variety.
Jesse Watters: "Hats off to @GayleKing for totally redeeming herself after the [Jussie] Smollett fiasco.."— Yashar Ali ???? (@yashar) March 6, 2019
Dana Perino: "That was not Gayle King...Robin Roberts did the Smollett interview." pic.twitter.com/8nRcLhVybA
The King/Roberts mix-up, meanwhile, brought in a fresh round of condemnation. The website The Root described Watters as the “living embodiment of what a mayonnaise dream deferred would look and act like if it angrily humped a very smug dab of expired bronzer,” and as “a dude who looks like a guy who wanted to be better at sports than he actually was.”
Roberts spoke this week about the Smollett interview, after the actor was charged with filing a false police report. Per Page Six, the Good Morning America host said that she had been reluctant to do the interview, but defended doing so, on the grounds that the interview was newsworthy.