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Stand By Your Man? How Could She?

Aired July 25, 2003 - 20:43   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: It's been a week since Kobe Bryant, his wife, Vanessa, at his side, went before TV cameras admitting committing adultery with a Colorado teenage, but denied sexually assaulting her. If you looked at his wife and wondered how could stand by him like that, well, you're not alone. Reports say that three days after that news conference, Bryant gave his wife a $4 million 8-karat purple diamond ring. The co-owner of the jewelry store where he bought it told "Extra" it's a gift of love, big love, adding that the couple looked happy and relaxed.
Joining me this evening to talk about how women can stand to stand by their men are Court TV anchor Lisa Bloom -- in Baltimore, Shirley Glass. She's the psychologist and author of "Not Just Friends." And in Los Angeles for us this evening is "US" reporter Tina Dirmann.

Good evening to all of you. Thanks for joining us.

And Shirley, let's begin with you.


O'BRIEN: All right. Do you think there is something weird about wearing a big sign of your husband's infidelity on your finger?

GLASS: Well, you know, I read in "People" magazine that he ordered the ring two weeks before the thing came out. But it did happen after he had this one night stand, whatever that one night stand is. We really don't know.

You know, if he had sent her five dozen roses, we wouldn't be making such a big fuss about it. And perhaps, as for many men, he doesn't really know how to express himself in words, so he does it in deeds. So I wouldn't think that that is so unusual that he did something very special for her to prove his love for her.

The majority of men who have sexual affairs do stay married. Wives find it easier to forgive a one night stand than they are likely to forgive their husband falling in love with another person.

O'BRIEN: Well, Lisa, let's talk a little about Vanessa. I mean, you got to imagine that the humiliation for the wife is pretty terrible and maybe made several dozen times worse by the fact she's under this microscope and in the spotlight anyway, right? LISA BLOOM, COURT TV: Well, this looks to me like a guilt payment, Soledad. And the ring was purchased a couple of days after the hotel incident. That tells me there may have been some kind of deal struck between these two behind the scenes that we never find out about. She gets a $4 million ring if they separate or divorce, under California law, that is completely her separate property -- $4 million, ka-ching in the bank for Vanessa. In exchange, perhaps, she agreed to sit next to him at the press conference, hold his hands, look at him adoringly and express her full support.

O'BRIEN: Lisa, I got to tell you -- you know, Shirley is talking about love and you're talking about what sounds to me kind of like a contractual agreement.

Tina, I'm curious to know where you stand in this.

TINA DIRMANN, REPORTER, "US WEEKLY": Well, I mean, it's certainly a nice perk. Whenever you're involved in something like this, they're going advice you to get out there and have a united front. You get out there and you are making a performance in front of the whole -- the court of public opinion is watching you right now.

So the ring is nice. But, you know, there is a lot at stake here to keep this marriage together.

You know, just days before the scandal broke, let's not forget, he signed a $45 million contract with Nike. So, you know, the $4 million ring is nice, but that's a pittance in comparison to what's at stake here.

When they got married, when they got together, he gave her $50, 000 Mercedes. She moved into his $2.5 million pacific Palisades home. So it goes on and on and on. It's not just this ring. There's a lot more at stake here and now they have a child together, too. So she's bound to him for the long haul.

O'BRIEN: Lisa, you're an attorney. Do defense attorneys sit down with their clients in cases like these and say, "Here's the deal. For the purposes of this trial you will be the happy couple until we're done?"

BLOOM: Absolutely. Public image is all important, especially in a high profile case involving a celebrity. It's essential that Vanessa sit at his side. Look at Hillary Clinton standing by her man. That was important to Bill Clinton and we see it over and over again. What we didn't see Hillary get, though, was a $4 million ring, just a couple days after the story broke.

I do question the timing of this. Even to Kobe Bryant, I think 4 million bucks is a lot of money.

O'BRIEN: Shirley, you know, Lisa mentions Hillary Clinton. And Hillary Clinton was the one who said the only people who know what's going on in a marriage are the two people who are in that marriage. Do you think that's fair?

GLASS: I totally agree with that.

When a lot of people made a big fuss about the fact that Kobe Bryant and Vanessa didn't have a prenuptial. And the way I see that is these were two very young people, kind of naive. They fell in love. They thought they found their soulmate. When people get a prenuptial, it's in case it doesn't work. They didn't expect it not to work. And so perhaps she's standing by her man because she fell in love with him, she loves him, he's the father of her child and she's hoping that this was just an indiscretion and not some terrible criminal act on his part.

O'BRIEN: If they do get divorced, and the at's a huge, gigantic if, with California state law, in fact, Lisa, she would get half of everything he's worth.

BLOOM: That's right. It's a community property state. There was no prenup. That means she gets half of everything he made during the marriage. They've been married for a couple of years. He certainly had enormous income since then. She would get half, plus she gets to keep that $4 million ring because it's a gift to her. It's her separate property under California law.

GLASS: But the $4 million ring is such a small portion of the fortune she would get if she got divorced. So to think of the $4 million ring is something to keep her in the marriage is kind of nonsensical, I would think.

O'BRIEN: So Lisa, you're saying that, in fact, the fact that she's not bailing and not asking for a divorce that we know of yet is frankly a sign that it is true love and that she's got a young baby and she's staying in the marriage for all the right reasons.

BLOOM: Well, she may very well be. All I'm questioning is the timing, that there is that incident in the hotel. She gets the ring and about a week-and-a-half later she's sitting next to him, looking adoringly at him and saying he has her full support. I do question the timing of that. I think it's a little unusual.

GLASS: He may have given her the ring out of guilt without telling her what happened in Colorado. And even among sexual addicts, the majority of their wives threaten to leave when they first hear about it, but only a very small percentage actually separate. And they do work through it and the person goes through some kind of healing process and some kind of therapy and these couples do stay together.

O'BRIEN: Tina, we're going to give you the last word in all of this. You know, I got to tell you, Kobe Bryant certainly is not the only married man who, after admitting infidelity, has bought his wife a nice little trinket. So certainly many people must be saying, "What's wrong with that?"

DIRMANN: Well, sure. I mean, who wouldn't take that?

And, you know, I want to throw in here also that I've actually talked to some people who -- behind the scenes in the NBA who said by all accounts this was a very loving couple. He didn't hang out after the game with the guys. He didn't party with them to the extent that it almost caused a rift between him and some of the other players.

And everybody always just assumed he went home to her. And I was just talking to somebody who said the last time they saw them -- this was well before the scandal broke, they -- touching, holding hands, very loving. So I think the money factors in, but I still at base think that they do love each other.

O'BRIEN: Tina Dirmann and Shirley Glass and Lisa Bloom, nice to see all of you and thanks for joining us. Appreciate it.

GLASS: My pleasure.


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