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- During an event in Brooklyn on Monday, “Good Morning America” host Robin Roberts reflected on her interview with “Empire” star Jussie Smollett, who claimed to be the victim of a hate crime.
- It was only a few hours after the interview aired that investigators accused Smollett of staging the attack.
- Chicago police have since charged him with filing a false report, accusing Smollett of orchestrating the incident because he was disappointed with his salary.
- Roberts said she was hesitant to interview Smollett in the first place, and felt like the interview was a “no-win situation” since it wouldn’t look good if she pressed him too hard, Page Six reported.
“Good Morning America” host Robin Roberts said Monday that she was hesitant to interview Jussie Smollett last month after he said he was the victim of a hate crime attack.
Speaking at The Cut’s “How I Get It Done” event in Brooklyn, Roberts said that when the story first broke, she thought it best to wait and see what new information came in before interviewing the “Empire” star.
“I’ll be completely honest, I said, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to do the interview or not,'” she said, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “Let’s just wait and see, let’s see if more information comes in.”
Roberts said she finally agreed to do the interview when Smollett’s representatives said he planned to give new information, and promised her that she could ask him about “red flags” in his story. She said Smollett wanted to do the interview to combat rising speculation about his story.
“They said, ‘He wants to say things that he has not said,’ and I’m like, ‘As a journalist, as a newsperson, this is newsworthy, he’s going to go on record for the first time, yes I’ll do the interview,'” she said, according to Page Six.
But she said the fact that she was a gay woman made her a less-than-ideal interviewer for Smollett.
“I’m a black gay woman, he’s a black gay man. He’s saying that there’s a hate crime, so if I’m too hard, then my LGBT community is going to say, ‘You don’t believe a brother.’ If I’m too light on him, it’s like, ‘Oh, because you are in the community, you’re giving him a pass,'” she said, according to Page Six. “It was a no-win situation for me.”
The interview was filmed on February 12, but aired two days later. Within hours of the interview airing, news reports emerged that two Nigerian brothers had accused Smollett of paying them to attack him. Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson later said Smollett orchestrated the attack because he was upset about his “Empire” salary.
“People are looking at the interview through the eyes of ‘How did you not know?'” Roberts said, according to Page Six. “I did the interview 48 hours before then. Had I had that information or [knew] what the brothers were alleging, heck yeah, I would have asked him about that.”
She went on to say that it was “one of the most challenging interviews I’ve ever had to do.”
Smollett turned himself in to police last week after being charged with disorderly conduct and filing a false police report.
- Read more about the Jussie Smollett case on INSIDER:
- Jussie Smollett’s character will be removed from the final 2 episodes of this season of ‘Empire’
- Fox says it’s now ‘considering its options’ after ‘Empire’ star Jussie Smollett’s arrest
- Chicago police released ‘Empire’ star Jussie Smollett’s mug shot
- How Chicago’s vast network of surveillance cameras helped solve the Jussie Smollett case