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“Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts said she thought there were “red flags” with Jussie Smollett’s story of being a hate crime victim ahead of her hyped-up sit-down with the “Empire” star last month and hesitated to even conduct the interview, describing it as a “no-win situation.”
"All I wanted was to get to the truth," Roberts said Monday during The Cut’s “How I Get It Done” event in Brooklyn, according to The Hollywood Reporter. "All I wanted was to give the truth."
Smollett claimed he was attacked in late January by MAGA hat-wearing thugs over his race and sexual orientation. Authorities now allege he hired two brothers to stage the attack because he was "dissatisfied with his salary" on the Fox show and wanted to raise his public profile.
He has denied staging the attack.
Roberts said the “GMA” booking department had asked her about possibly interviewing Smollett shortly after the alleged attack, before police would allege it was a hoax.
“I’ll be completely honest, I was like 'I don’t know if I want to do the interview or not,'” she said, according to Page Six. “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.”
Roberts said that she was assured she would be able to ask him about the “red flags” and inconsistencies 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 said, according to Page Six.
However, Roberts called the interview a “no-win situation” as a gay black woman interviewing a gay black man: She said she was concerned that if she were “too hard” on Smollett, the LGBTQ community might feel like she didn’t buy his story; at the same time, she said: “If I’m too light on him, then it’s like, ‘Oh, because you are in the community, you’re giving him a pass.”
But ultimately, when the interview aired, it was eclipsed by the news that Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, who worked with Smollett on “Empire,” were arrested in connection with the incident. They soon told police that Smollett paid them to carry out the attack and have since apologized for their alleged involvement.
“People are looking at the interview through the eyes of ‘How did you not know?'” she 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.”
Smollett turned himself in to police on Feb. 21, one day after he was charged with filing a false police report. He posted the $100,000 bail, and he faces a maximum of three years in prison if convicted.
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