As Smollett Story Unravels, ABC Defends Robin Roberts' Softball Interview on GMA

NewsBusters | 2/18/2019 | Staff
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ABC’s Good Morning America team went into full damage control mode Monday, after news broke over the weekend that actor Jussie Smollett had allegedly paid two men to stage his assault. Just last Thursday, anchor Robin Roberts had given the actor a softball interview, even refusing to call his story of a Trump supporter assaulting him, “alleged.”

Leading into the report, Roberts finally did call the quickly unraveling story “alleged:”

Twist - Jussie - Smollett - Case - Actor

"A new twist in the Jussie Smollett case. The actor firing back this morning as the story of his alleged attack faces questions. Police in Chicago say they're working to corroborate allegations that Smollett paid two men to stage the assault," she stated.

In reporter Eva Pilgrim’s report, she tried to save face for ABC, stressing that police had said Smollett was “cooperating fully” with the investigation up until this point. Pilgrim did not mention that the Chicago Police Department also said Smollett would only give partial, redacted phone records to them.

Roberts - Interview - Actor - Knowledge - Time

Roberts followed up by defending her interview with the actor, as appropriate given the knowledge they had at the time:

This case is ever evolving. Head-spinning. Changing. When I sat down with Jussie, it was Tuesday night in Chicago. At the time to give his first account publicly give his first account of what he said happened. And we have to remember, at that time, on Tuesday, police officers were saying that his account was consistent. It was credible. And that he was being cooperative. This was all before the interview aired on Thursday and then we found out about the brothers.

Afterwards - ABC - Team - Network - Analyst

Afterwards, the ABC team brought on the network’s legal analyst, Dan Abrams, to help do more damage control, spinning Roberts’ interview as more even-handed than it was by hyping the few times she had gingerly brought up skeptics of his story:

[I] have...
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