On Tuesday, the website The Blast reported that ABC staffers were immediately concerned about Jussie Smollett's claims after he appeared for a Robin Roberts interview on Good Morning America. They reported that Smollett specifically requested that Roberts handle the interview because the two knew each other from when she appeared on an episode of Empire that aired last year.
So let's take a look. On the April 11, 2018 episode, Roberts was much tougher on fictional Jamal Lyon (played by Smollett) than she was on Smollett in real life!
ROBIN ROBERTS: This video of you beating your boyfriend, Warren Hall. Everyone's seen it. It's gone viral.
JAMAL LYON/JUSSIE: Yeah, um... [over yelling on video: Why?! Huh? Huh?!] Maybe we could -- We could stop playing it, please?
ROBERTS-Oh, sure. But you know that was followed by your involvement in the shooting death of former New York City mayoral candidate Angelo Dubois, so how do you explain all this violence?
JAMAL/JUSSIE: Well, first of all, that was self-defense. You know? Uh, but it certainly was a-an unfortunate set of events that took place. But I think, honestly, if you... If you talked to anybody that knows me, they would all say that I'm not a violent person.
ROBERTS: I'm sorry, Jamal. I got to stop you there, because the evidence indicates otherwise, and I want to ask you this. Have you ever considered anger management counseling?
JAMAL/JUSSIE: No. I'm sorry. I think that what I would want everybody to know about me, Robin, is that, uh... Um... (Aide whispering talking point): When you're born into a certain set of circumstances... You just, you... (Jamal sighs) I'm sorry. I have rehearsed all of this foolishness with-with all of my handlers, you know, but-but it's just not true.
So, what is true? -What's true is that the entire Dubois family tried to take mine down. And I mean literally take us down. You know, so, yes, Angelo Dubois is dead, but I would be lying if I said that I was sorry about something that he brought on himself. You know, I almost lost my brother, but I don't see none of the press talking about this. Like, not once. And most recently I almost lost the person that literally means more to me than anybody in the world.
So, you know, what I've learned is that life is very short, and I'm just, uh... I don't know. I just...I'm...I'm done. I'm done with all of this, and -- and I apologize, because I respect you a great deal, but I'm done. I'm done apologizing, I'm done doing stupid interviews that I don't wanna do --
ROBERTS: Guess we are done!
Even the anonymous ABC staffers want to make excuses. "As one source put it, everyone one wanted this interview and regardless if it was CBS, NBC or even CNN, he would have been treated the same. ABC just landed the interview."
On the morning of the original Empire episode, Roberts took Good Morning America viewers on an "all-access" tour of the show. This light banter sounds a little prescient now:
ROBIN ROBERTS: So, tell me what I got to do.
TARAJI P. HENSON: Stay away from Jussie....[videos of Smollett pranking Henson] Be well rested. Don't take a nap. Don't close your eyes for a second. If you do, sleep with one open because he likes to prank....
ROBERTS: So, now I'm prepared. Jussie, bring it. I'm ready for you!
HENSON: You ready?
ROBERTS: You're not, you're not gonna get me. You're not gonna get me. She got me prepared!