Robert Roberts has broken her silence on her infamous sit-down with Jussie Smollett where he discussed the alleged hate crime in which he suffered injuries.
The Good Morning America anchor was frank about her apprehension prior to the interview during The Cut’s “How I Get It Done” event on Monday evening, according to Page Six, saying: “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,’” Roberts continued. “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.”
The morning show host revealed that she was assured she would be permitted to challenge Smollett on what she referred to as the “red flags” in his reporting of the alleged racist and homophobic attack. Roberts said she was told that Smollett would be offering new information during their discussion.
“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 clarified.
Roberts revealed that the interview began two-and-a-half hours later than it was scheduled.
“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.’”
Roberts shared that she tried to stay “neutral” as a journalist and not allow her personal opinions or emotions affect her decision. She also admitted that she felt pressure to acknowledge the needs of the Black and LGBT community in her interview style.
“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,’” she explained. “It was a no-win situation for me.”
The Empire star was arrested last month after police charged him with disorderly conduct and filing a false report, a felony, in connection with his alleged attack, Chicago police said.
Smollett’s legal team Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson responded to the latest development in a statement Wednesday when charges were announced, saying that they will investigate as well.
“Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked,” his team said in a statement to ESSENCE. “Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”