CBS’ Gayle King asks TV anchor ‘Who runs the world?’ But he doesn’t know his Beyoncé.

“CBS This Morning” Gayle King made a whirlwind visit to WBTV to help the Charlotte station celebrate its 70th anniversary on Monday, and — surprise! — she proved to be the life of the party.

Just hours after wrapping her live-from-New York network show for the day, King was fresh off a plane and talking on the air during the noon hour with WBTV co-anchors Kristen Miranda and John Carter, wondering aloud whether cake would be in her future.

Later, she sat down separately for brief interviews with other journalists: WBTV’s Christine Sperow first, then WBTV’s Jamie Boll, then The Observer.

Boll had perhaps the most memorable exchange with her, though it came at a mildly embarrassing cost to the father of four. After Boll brought up the fact that Susan Zirinsky now runs the news division at CBS, and that King is at the center of things on “This Morning,” and that Norah O’Donnell is the new anchor on the “Evening News,” King bellowed, “‘Who runs the world?’” She then encouraged Boll to complete the lyric from the Beyoncé song.

“You — women!” he blurted.

“No, what’s the song, Jamie?” she said.

“You’re asking the wrong guy,” Boll said, his face starting to redden. “It’s pop culture.”

“It’s Beyoncé!” she shouted. “‘Who runs the world?’ Somebody tell Jamie, please.”

And then a chorus of voices from the next room chimed: “Girls!”

“Jamie!” King exclaimed, laughing. “You are gonna lose some cool-people points now.”

“Those were lost a long time ago — let’s be honest,” he said, joining in the laughter gamely.

Here are a few highlights from our chat.

World divisions

“Sometimes the world feels sort of upside down to me — because we are encouraged to be our worst possible selves. In all levels. And that bothers me. ... That Golden Rule — ‘Treat others as you would have them treat you’ — I do think there’s some merit in that. And we need to get back to that.

“I think we are more divided — both politically and racially — than we’ve ever been before, and that is very scary to me. I’m worried that somebody’s gonna get hurt, and that troubles me. And I only see it getting worse, and not better. ... All of us need to tap it down and get it under control.”

The importance of facts

“They really matter. So regardless of where you get your news, I just encourage you to make sure that you’re getting a really 360 view. We can all go into our silos, and only pay attention to this and this, and then you get two totally different points of view. It’s like marital counseling — which I’ve been in, before my divorce.

“The therapist would say, ‘Well, that’s your reality, but people can be looking at the same thing and have different realities.’ ... Was it (Daniel Patrick) Moynihan that said, ‘You’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts’? ...

“That’s how I feel about what’s happening in the world today. You are not entitled to your own facts. So I just urge — implore people, beg people — please pay attention to the facts. In all things. In all things. But certainly in politics.”

Importance of free press

“Walter Cronkite once said, ‘You can’t have democracy without a free press.’ Free press is important to a democracy. And now our jobs, to me, matter more than ever before. It’s not my job to give you my opinion, but it is my job to give you the facts of what’s happening in the world. And I do think that CBS prides itself on that.

“We were talking earlier today about smart journalism; I think we check that box. We were talking about original storytelling and reporting; we check that box. Our new boss is Susan Zirinsky, who’s a badass in this business. A legend, really, in this business.

“She calls it ‘hard news with a heart.’ We have figured out a way — certainly on ‘CBS This Morning’ — that you can tell the news and present the news, and not go to sleaze school or be a comedy act. People want to be informed. Dare I say they want some form of entertainment. But I’m not a comedian. But I do like to have a good time. I do. I like to have fun. And I don’t think it jeopardizes your credibility because you have a sense of humor.”

“CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King, left, with R&B singer R. Kelly on March 5 in Chicago for Kelly’s first television interview since he was arrested on 10 sexual abuse charges in February. The interview first aired Wednesday, March 6 and Thursday, March 7, on “CBS This Morning.” John Paul Filo / Lazarus Jean-Baptiste CBS

King’s R. Kelly interview

“I think part of the reason why he had what I call ‘that meltdown,’ it was the first time that ... he had given an interview after the devastating ‘Surviving R. Kelly’ documentary — which he denies. I think on some level, he does feel the walls are closing in on him. And I think that that episode was a reflection of that.

“But now, these charges are very serious. These are federal charges. He’s in jail. He’s gonna be brought to New York within the next couple of weeks for more charges. This is a very serious situation. I’ve heard authorities say he’s never gonna see the outside of a jail. We’ll see.

“Because people thought that before — that he would be convicted — and he wasn’t. We talked to his people. They are convinced that he will once again be exonerated. We will see.”

Whether King knew Kelly interview would go viral

“No, no, no. Actually, it wasn’t until I saw the still picture myself — because when you’re in it, and he’s slapping his hand and he’s screaming and hollering, I never was afraid or thought that he was directing that anger at me. I just knew he was frustrated and angry at the situation.

“But I never thought that it would blow up (like that). When I look at that picture where I’m looking like a sphinx, it sort of takes me by surprise. But I just thought, If I just sit here quietly and not move because I didn’t want to distract him, that it would send a message to him: ‘I’m not going anywhere. I’m not going anywhere. Whatever this is you’re doing, I’m not going anywhere.’ But no, I did not think it would turn into this.”

How their chat affected King’s career

“It was definitely a game-changer for me. I’ve been doing this job for a long time, and have done work that I’m very proud of for a very long time. But I did think that people started to look at me differently. I can’t deny that. And I think people paid attention in ways that they hadn’t, or they were surprised that I was so composed under what would be very frightening circumstances. But I really did feel all of that.

“You know, meditation is a good thing. But I really did feel very calm in that instance. I wasn’t afraid. I just thought, ‘Let me figure out a way to get it back on track.’ But am I surprised that it’s turned out this way? Yes, I am.”

Finally, while I didn’t get a moment as memorable as hers with Boll and the Beyoncé lyric, King did let her guard down for a minute or two at the end of our chat.

Gayle King on ‘cool names’

“Théoden. I’m gonna remember that name. I love that name. ... My daughter just got engaged, and I want a baby so badly I can taste it. So I have a list of names that I’m collecting. I’m now adding Théoden to the list.

“I have Eden, I have Chandler, I have Remington, I have Sawyer, and now I have Théoden. I mean, I like cool names that aren’t weird. And I think your name is cool without being weird. ...

“My daughter said, ‘Mom, my womb is empty. Can I get married first?’ ‘Well, yes, I would like you to get married first.’ But I’m collecting names, just in case.”

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Théoden Janes has spent 12 years covering entertainment and pop culture for the Observer. He also thrives on telling emotive long-form stories about extraordinary Charlotteans and — as a veteran of 20-plus marathons and two Ironman triathlons — occasionally writes about endurance and other sports.
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