Gayle King has already provided one of the most memorable moments of 2019. In March, the CBS This Morning anchor sat down with singer R. Kelly, who was the subject of the disturbing documentary Surviving R. Kelly, in which numerous women accused Kelly of years of sexual abuse — most of which they claim happened while they were under the age of consent. Kelly had also been charged with 10 counts of sexual abuse. The singer adamantly denies every claim and charge.
As King conducted the interview, Kelly grew more upset, until he couldn’t contain himself. “It escalated rather quickly, where it went from 0 to 200,” recalls King in this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday. An unglued Kelly leapt out of his seat, towering over King, shouting and gesturing wildly. Meanwhile, King calmly sat, simply calling out his name, Robert.
“When he jumped out of the chair, and he’s hitting, and he’s screaming, and spit is flying because he’s angry, I just thought, ‘You can’t respond in kind to that. If you respond in kind to that, then we’re both off the rails,'” says King. “My main thing at that time was, ‘I still have some more questions, please don’t let him walk out of this interview. We’re not done yet.'”
She continues, “I thought, if I made eye contact — I looked at him, I also looked at the chair — to let him know that I’m not going anywhere. And in the end, he sat back down and we continued the interview.”
After seeing the footage and the photos, King says, “I never thought, as jarring as that looks, and as unsettling and certainly disturbing, I never thought he was going to hurt me. I was never afraid. I just knew that he was angry, I knew that he was irritated with some of the questions, but I also thought he knew the questions were fair. I was just worried that he would accidentally hit me, the way he was moving all around. I never felt physically in danger, that, ‘Oh God, he could do something to me.’ I didn’t feel that.”
For more on Gayle King, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday
“I just thought I was looking at somebody who was having a bit of a breakdown, I really did. I thought that we were watching a breakdown in progress, and I didn’t really want that to happen either on camera.”
CBS This Morning airs weekdays at 7 a.m. ET on CBS.