Jussie Smollett‘s first interview after claiming he was attacked in Chicago was with Robin Roberts on “Good Morning America” on Feb. 14. Since then, there have been many twists in the actor’s case, including his felony disorderly conduct arrest for allegedly filing a false police report. Two Nigerian-American brothers have come forward to say they were paid to stage the attack, but the money they were paid was reportedly for training. To9 confuse matters even more, the FBI has said the Chicago Police Department “overstated” their case against Smollett.
“I’ll be completely honest, I was like I don’t know if I want to do the interview or not,” Roberts said Monday during an interview. “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.”
She continued, “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.’ I sit down with him, and I don’t know what he’s going to say.”
Roberts said she was trying to be neutral, but “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.”
She ended by saying, “It was one of the most challenging interviews I’ve ever had to do.”
Two days after Roberts interviewed Smollett, the Nigerian brothers came forward, changing the trajectory of the investigation.
On Jan. 29, while walking to a subway, two men reportedly yelled racial and homophobic slurs at the actor after he exited the restaurant, investigators told The Hollywood Reporter. They allegedly punched and poured bleach on him while one of the suspects put a rope around his neck. As they fled the scene, Smollett told police they said, “This is MAGA country.”
The 36-year-old actor and singer made it clear that he was not lying, telling Roberts, “For me, the main thing was the idea that I somehow switched up my story, you know? And that somehow maybe I added a little extra trinket, you know, of the MAGA thing. I didn’t need to add anything like that. They called me a f—-, they called me a n—-. There’s no which way you cut it. I don’t need some MAGA hat as the cherry on top of some racist sundae.”
Smollett also said he was optimistic when he was told there was a camera where the alleged attack took place. However, the camera was in the opposite direction. Smollett also had another theory on why people were doubting him.
“I have to acknowledge the lies, and the hate,” he said. “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.. And that says a lot about the place that we are in our country right now.
“It’s not necessarily that you don’t believe that this is the truth, you don’t even want to see the truth.” Watch below:
Smollett has denied he staged the attack.