Good Morning America‘s Robin Roberts is speaking out about her controversial interview with Jussie Smollett.
Less than a month after Roberts sat down with the Empire actor, she revealed during a speaking engagement in New York on Monday that she felt conflicted about the conversation.
“I’ll be completely honest, I was like I don’t know if I want to do the interview or not,” she explained. “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.”
The journalist — who is the only member of the media to interview Smollett after he said he was assaulted in a racist and homophobic attack in Chicago on Jan. 29 — ultimately decided she couldn’t pass up a national news 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 shared.
Roberts also touched on issues of sexuality and race, stating that she felt pressured to handle the interview because she’s gay and black.
“I’m a black gay woman, he’s a black gay man,” she explained. “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.’”
Given the circumstances, Roberts viewed the sit-down as a “no-win situation.”
The GMA co-host also went on to point out that she didn’t know Smollett was friendly with the Nigerian brothers who allegedly helped him stage the attack.
“People are looking at the interview through the eyes of ‘How did you not know?’” she said. “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.”
Seven days after Roberts’ interview, Smollett was arrested on Feb. 21 and charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report. Hours later, he appeared at a bond hearing and was released on $100,000 bail.
Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said the actor orchestrated the attack because he was “dissatisfied with his salary” on Fox’s hit series, Empire.
Smollett’s attorneys, Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson said in a statement that they plan to “mount an aggressive defense” and “thorough investigation” in light of the charges.
“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,” the statement read.
The singer-songwriter’s next court hearing is set for Thursday, March 14.