Good Morning America host Robin Roberts has spoken about her interview with Empire star Jussie Smollett.
Roberts interviewed Smollett for the show broadcast 14 February. At the time, police were treating Smollett as the potential victim of a hate-crime assault. The incident took place in Chicago in the early hours of 29 January.
Smollett spoke to Roberts about the assault. He expressed how hurt and angry he was that some people doubted his version of the events.
Two days after the interview broadcast, Chicago police arrested two men in connection with the attack. However, the men told police Smollett paid them to stage the assault.
Smollett has now been arrested and faces disorderly conduct charges for filing a false police report. He denies he orchestrated the incident.
Robin Roberts talks about striking the right balance in interview
Roberts was speaking last night at The Cut’s ‘How I Get It Done’ event at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge.
She answered questions about the interview, specifically whether she should have been more aggressive in her questioning of 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.”
‘It was a no-win situation for me,’ she said, explaining her trepidation on grilling Smollett harder.
‘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.’
Roberts unsure whether to do interview or not
‘I’ll be completely honest, I was like I don’t know if I want to do the interview or not,’ she went on to say.
‘I said, “I don’t want to sit down with him if he’s going to ‘lawyer up’,” 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.
She said she decided to do the interview after being told Smollett wanted to says things he hadn’t not previously talked about.
‘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.”’
Smollett turned up late for recording
She revealed some details about the interview not previously known. This includes the fact Smollett turned late. The interview took place two and a half hours later than scheduled. This made some on the production team sceptical of his story.
Roberts reminded last night’s audience that it’s easy to look back with hindsight. Her Smollett interview took place two days before police arrested the brothers now connected to the incident.
‘People are looking at the interview through the eyes of “How did you not know?” 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.
‘It was one of the most challenging interviews I’ve ever had to do.’
Smollett’s is next due to appear in court on 14 March.
H/T: Page Six