AceShowbiz - A lot of people were shocked when police named "Empire" star Jussie Smollett as the suspect in the racial and homophobic attack and arrested star for faking the attack. But no one is probably more blindsided than ABC's "Good Morning America" host Robin Roberts, who arranged an interview with the actor that aired on February 14.
In the interview, Smollett could be seen saying to Roberts, "At first it was a thing of like, listen, if I tell the truth then that's it 'cause it’s the truth. Then it became a thing of like, oh, how can you doubt that? Like, how do you not believe that? It’s the truth." He added, "And then it became a thing of like, oh, it's not necessarily that you don't believe that this is the truth. You don’t even want to see the truth."
A "Good Morning America" source admitted that the timing made the interview "bad optics," though the source defended Roberts. "It was an interview everyone wanted," said the source. "She conducted an incredible interview and the shoes fell really just right after the interview aired. Timing made it bad optics but who could have seen any of this coming as we see it today?"
The insider stressed that during the interview, the public was still convinced that Smollett was a victim instead of a suspect of the alleged hate crime. "There's not really a spirit of regret about the Jussie interview," insisted the source. "And no one feels that Robin got duped. Taken advantage of, yes, but not duped."
Another ABC source pointed out how Jussie "never flinched" during the sit-down. "He looked right into the camera and lied to everyone."
A network executive also came to Roberts' defense regarding her way of handling the interview. "There's a reason every news organization is running those clips. It's news. That interview is central to the story as a whole," the executive said. "You have to assume the same version he told us he told the police."
During the Thursday episode of "Good Morning America", Roberts called the incident as "a setback for race-relations, homophobia, MAGA supporters, who the fingers were pointed at them." She continued, "I cannot think of another case where there's anger on so many sides. And you can understand why there would be."
ABC's chief legal analyst Dan Abrams added, "Your interview is going evidence in this case. That sort of locks him in there to a particular account. That sort of locks him in there to a particular account. And when you watch -- God, it is so hard to watch that again."
Roberts agreed, saying, "It is. I know."
Smollet turned himself in to Chicago Police Department earlier on Thursday after he was named a suspect in a criminal investigation for filing a fake police report. He was charged with two felony counts. He was released after posting a $100,000 bond.
Following his arrest, his legal team released a statement criticizing the Chicago Police which accused Smollett of staging the attack in order to take "advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career." The statement read, "Mr. Smollet is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing."
It continued, "Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system. The presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon at the expense of Mr. Smollett and notably, on the eve of a Mayoral election."