Robin Roberts Revisits Jussie Smollett TV Interview: ‘It Was a No-Win Situation’


The “Good Morning America” anchor spoke in regards to the difficult emotions she had going into her sit-down with the ‘Empire’ star and the purple flags that emerged because the saga continued to develop.

Robin Roberts on Monday (March four) revealed that she noticed "purple flags" in Jussie Smollett’s story and was subsequently hesitant about interviewing the Empire star on ABC's Good Morning America. The sit-down, which aired Feb. 14, was Smollett's first televised interview since his alleged hate crime assault and was broadcast one week earlier than Smollett would go on to be charged with federal disorderly conduct for falsifying a police report.

The GMA anchor took a second throughout her solo panel at The Cut's first daylong "How I Get It Done" occasion to share particulars in regards to the high-profile interview, together with the small print of how the ABC get unfolded and whether or not she believed Smollett in the course of the course of.

"All I needed was to get to the reality," Roberts instructed the intimate crowd, together with The Hollywood Reporter, that had gathered at 1 Hotel Brooklyn. "All I needed was to provide the reality."

While discussing particulars of the interview, which was shot two days previous to its airing, Roberts defined that the GMA reserving division had initially reached out to her about sitting down with Smollett. Talks in regards to the potential interview started shortly after the Empire star claimed he was attacked on a Chicago street in late January.

It was in these early inside conversations the place Roberts first voiced her reluctance. "I'll be utterly sincere, I mentioned, 'I don't know if I'm going to do the interview or not,'" she mentioned. "Let's simply wait and see, let's see if extra data is available in."

There was rising hypothesis over Smollett's account on the time, nevertheless it wasn't till hours after the interview aired report hit that brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo (who at the moment are witnesses within the Chicago Police Department's case) had been allegedly paid by Smollett to stage the attack. The narrative round Smollett started to considerably shift, however the interview was already locked.

Roberts pointed to feedback made by Smollett during a Los Angeles concert within the days following his alleged assault as one other key second the place she questioned talking with the actor. She was adamant that interviewing Smollett made "no sense" if he was simply going to "lawyer up" or refuse to be candid.

Roberts clarified to THR that her choice to speak with Smollett was contingent upon him sharing particulars that hadn’t been beforehand reported, which might make the interview newsworthy. "If there wasn't going to be something new, I didn't actually need to do it," she mentioned.

It was after these inside GMA conversations that Smollett reached out, "outraged by individuals making assumptions about whether or not it occurred or not," Roberts instructed THR and the gang. According to the GMA anchor, Smollett's staff mentioned that the actor was OK with being challenged on what Roberts noticed as "purple flags," however that he'd additionally say issues he hadn’t already mentioned elsewhere. 

"I'm like — as a journalist and as a newsperson, that is his proper," Roberts mentioned. "He's occurring the file for the primary time. Yes, I'll do the interview."

Roberts famous that her GMA staff went by way of the police report and carried out different analysis to arrange for the interview, which was initially set for five p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 12, however was finally pushed again a number of hours as a result of actor's filming schedule. Roberts admitted in the course of the panel that she wasn’t positive the way it was going to go or how Smollett was going to react, however that she consciously labored to be as impartial as potential. She additionally was conscious of her personal identification as a homosexual black girl and the way reporting on Smollett, a homosexual black man, may be perceived.

"He's saying that it was a hate crime," Roberts mentioned. "So if I'm too arduous on him, then individuals in my LGBTQ group are going, 'Oh, you don't consider him.' If I'm too mild on him, then it's like, 'Oh, since you are in the neighborhood, you're giving him a move.' So it was, like, it was a no-win state of affairs for me."

On Feb. 25, 4 days after Smollett's arrest, Roberts did one other GMA sit-down, this time with Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, who revealed further particulars in regards to the division's ongoing investigation. Smollett maintains his innocence and returns to court docket this month.

Responding to criticisms to her Smollett interview, together with that she was too comfortable on the actor, Roberts admitted that she would have gone farther together with her questioning of the actor if she’d had extra of the small print that finally got here to mild earlier than the phase aired. "It was hurtful, among the issues that had been mentioned. I'll be sincere," mentioned Roberts. "Because I pleasure myself on being honest. I understand how a lot work went into being balanced about what to ask, to problem him on sure issues."

She added, "Had I had that data or what the brothers had been alleging — heck, yeah, I might have requested that. But it aired that morning [and] we taped it two days forward of time."

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