Gayle King considered scrapping her appearance on The Late Show Tuesday.
After her CBS This Morning colleague Charlie Rose was fired in the afternoon, amid sexual misconduct allegations from eight women published in The Washington Post Monday, she debated whether it would be appropriate to go on the air and talk to Stephen Colbert. "I came this close to canceling," she said. "It's a very difficult day. We booked this weeks ago, guys, because I was here to talk about Oprah's Favorite Things. Merry Christmas! Happy holidays!"
Colbert praised King and Norah O'Donnell's professionalism during a delicate situation. "I was very proud of CBS News and what you, Norah and everyone at CBS This Morning did," he told the broadcaster, "covering the allegations against Charlie Rose as news—objectively and fully."
"But that's what you have to do," King said. "To be honest with you, it isn't easy. It's still very painful. It's still very hurtful. Charlie and I—we worked together, have been friends. But when you think about the anguish of those women, despite the friendship, you still have to report the news. When I think of the job that we do at CBS, that's why I wanted to cancel, because I didn't want to be sitting here talking about this. But when you think about the job we do at CBS and how hard the people work, I want to know we are a top-notch broadcast operation. That's why I thought it was important to be here." Still, King confessed, "I was wincing at your monologue."
"You did your job this morning, and I did mine tonight," Colbert said. "We have different jobs."
King admitted it was still "difficult" to hear horrible things about Rose and his alleged behavior. "[But] I think about what these women were going through," she said. "I don't like that, either."
On Monday, Rose released a statement apologizing for his behavior, but also maintained that some of the allegations were inaccurate. Rose has not addressed his firings from CBS and PBS. "It was very difficult and very painful for me this morning," King said. "It really was—and still is."
Colbert noted that some viewers thought O'Donnell "seemed angry" while discussing Rose's then-suspension on the air Tuesday morning. King, for her part, told him, "I'm a variety of emotions. There's certainly some anger, there's sadness, there's compassion, there's concern."
"You can hold a variety of emotions around one particular incident, one particular person. So, I can't really say I'm one thing. I'll tell you, what I am is raw. We had a company meeting this afternoon; everybody gathered in the conference room," she said. "I think somebody even used the words, 'I just feel raw. I just feel numb.' We're all sort of reeling about what's happened."
The accusations against Rose seemingly came out of nowhere, according to King, making it even more confusing. "It's a stunning thing that's happened in the last 24 hours. Monday, your world is one way, and in 24 hours, Charlie has been suspended and then he has been fired. Charlie Rose, who is an icon in this country! I'm still wrapping my brain around that. But, again, I go back to what these women are going through, and I applaud them for speaking up," she said. "If anything changes in this, what I do hope is that people will speak up, that companies will send a message: 'We have zero tolerance for this kind of behavior.' That is a very important thing."
An increasing number of powerful men in Hollywood are being thrust into the spotlight for their alleged misdeeds, and King believes society is now in a time of reckoning. "I don't think it's going to go back into the shadows, Stephen, because women feel empowered to speak up. Women are no longer afraid to speak up. But the best part about it is they are now being believed. They are not being believed! That's big! That's big! They are now being believed. But it has to be more than just a bunch of women talking about this issue. We really do need men to join this conversation. Nothing is going to change until men join the conversation, too, and more women are in places of power," she argued. "That, also, is something I think will change."