“Good Morning America” host Robin Roberts says she had doubts about interviewing “Empire” star Jussie Smollett.
On Monday, Roberts discussed how the opportunity to interview Smollett was brought to her. “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 at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge.
“I said, ‘I don’t want to sit down with him if he’s going to lawyer up,’” the “Good Morning America” host, 58, recalled. “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.”
Smollett, who was allegedly the victim of a racist and homophobic hate crime, has been accused of staging his own attack but maintains that he is innocent. Roberts explained she was promised that she’d be able to challenge Smollett on the “red flags” over the incident.
“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. She went on to say the ABC employees felt skeptical about his story. “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.’” While feeling doubtful, she said she wanted to remain “neutral” as she felt pressure to represent the LGBTQ 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 explained. All in all, Roberts says she wanted to be fair regardless of how tough the interview was. “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,” she said. “It was one of the most challenging interviews I’ve ever had to do,” she said.