Good Morning America host Robin Roberts opened up about her interview with “Empire” star Jussie Smollett regarding his alleged hate crime almost three weeks after the highly publicized sit-down aired.
“I’ll be completely honest, I was like I don’t know if I want to do the interview or not,” she said during The Cut’s How I Get It Done event Monday in New York and reported by the New York Post.
“I said, ‘I don’t want to sit down with him if he’s going to lawyer up,’” she said. “And then I was told, ‘He wants to speak with you,’ [because] he was outraged by people making assumptions about whether it had happened or not.”
Roberts said Smollet’s representatives promised her that she would get new information from the actor and could challenge him on the “red flags” in 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 explained.
“I sit down with him, and I don’t know what he’s going to say,” she said. “Following up [about how] he couldn’t believe people didn’t believe him, well I go, ‘You’re out 2 o’clock in the morning, you’re getting a sandwich, [and] you won’t give up your phone.’”
Roberts admitted that while she tried to remain “neutral” she felt pressure from the LGBT community.
“I’m a black gay woman, he’s a black gay man,” she said. “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.’”
“It was a no-win situation for me,” she added.
Two days after the interview aired a story broke that two Nigerian brothers were allegedly paid by Smollett to stage the attack casting further doubt on Smollet’s claims.
“People are looking at the interview through the eyes of ‘How did you not know?’” she recalled. “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.”
“I pride myself in being fair, I know how much work went into being balanced about what had happened and to challenge him on certain things,” adding that “it was one of the most challenging interviews I’ve ever had to do.”
Smollet will appear in court on March 14 to face charges of disorderly conduct and filing a false police report.