Jussie Smollett, who was arrested Feb. 21 on charges of filing a false police report stemming from his alleged hate crime hoax, is currently out on bail. On Feb. 14, Smollett appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America for an interview with Robin Roberts, during which he tearfully recalled the Jan. 29 alleged attack, that Chicago police questioned since day one.
Roberts has now shared her thoughts on her Q&A with the Empire actor, saying she initially didn’t want to take it on, Page Six reports.
“I’ll be completely honest, I was like, ‘I don’t know if I want to do the interview or not.’ 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.’ He was outraged by people making assumptions about whether it had happened or not.”
Roberts also felt additional pressure as an gay person interviewing 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.”
Ultimately, the Good Morning America anchor went through with it because it was a great story that warranted coverage regardless of the drama that followed.
“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.’”
had When news broke that Smollett possibly paid brothers Ola and Able Osundairo to stage the attack two days after the interview, Roberts says the public began to question her judgment and skills and a journalist.
“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.”
But in the end, Roberts calls her one-on-one with Smollett “one of the most challenging interviews I’ve ever had to do.”
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Born and raised in Compton, California, Jessica Bennett began her career as an intern at The Oakland Post, and later, The Source Magazine. She went on to write for respected hip hop publications such as DJ Booth and Hip Hop DX before becoming the Urban Editor of pop culture website, Wetpaint.com. She joined Ebony as the Entertainment Editor August 2017. Bennett has interviewed such names as Vanessa Williams, Spike Lee, Tyra Banks, Forest Whitaker, Magic & Cookie Johnson and several others.