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Robin Roberts: Jussie Smollett Interview Was a 'No-Win For Me'

Robin Roberts, Jussie Smollett

The Good Morning America host said that her identity as a gay woman of color would play into the public's perception of how she handled the out actor. 

On Valentine's Day, Empire actor Jussie Smollett gave his only interview about an alleged racist and homophobic attack he said he endured to Good Morning America's Robin Roberts.

At a Monday event, Roberts spoke out about feeling like she was in a "no-win situation" when it came to interviewing the actor and musician who was arrested on felony charges on February 21 for falsifying a police report after it appeared that he paid a pair of Nigerian brothers to stage the attack that occurred in late January.

"It was one of the most challenging interviews I've ever had to do," Roberts said at The Cut's "How I Get It Done" event at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, according to Page Six.

Roberts told the crowd that she was hesitant to do the interview because she thought Smollett would "lawyer up" but that she decided to go through with it because he wanted to speak with her "[because] he was outraged by people making assumptions about whether it had happened or not."

Roberts, a 58-year-old veteran journalist, said she was told she could question Smollett about "red flags" that had arisen around his story.

In the interview with Roberts, an emotional Smollett spoke at length about how there were some who didn't believe him about the alleged attack in which he said the assailants doused him with a chemical, hung a noose around his neck, and hurled racist and homophobic epithets at him.

"I have to acknowledge the lies and the hate. And it feels like if I had said it was a Muslim or a Mexican or someone black, I feel like the doubters would have supported me much more. A lot more," Smollett told Roberts. "And that says a lot about the place that we are in our country right now."

Part of Roberts's hesitance in interviewing Smollett was because she knew that her identity as a gay woman of color would play into perceptions around how she handled the questioning.

"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," Roberts said.

During her appearance on Monday, the GMA host also touched on the fact that her interview with Smollett dropped just two days before the two brothers alleged that Smollett paid them to stage a hoax.

"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."

"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," Roberts said.

"There's so many people who do not come forward because others are not believed. I don't know how this is all going to end," Roberts said toward the end of her appearance.

Smollett was released on $100,000 bond on February 21. Shortly afterward, Empire's producers suspended him and scrubbed his character Jamal from the final episodes of the show's fifth season.

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Tracy E. Gilchrist