Robin Roberts is speaking out about Jussie Smollett’s arrest on Thursday after Chicago police allege he staged his own an attack and filed a false report because he was dissatisfied with his salary, reports Entertainment Tonight.
According to a source, Smollett’s Empire salary is significantly higher than initial reports of $65,000 an episode, and that all the actors got significant raises early when the show became a big hit. If Smollett was unhappy about his salary, it was not well known and to the source’s knowledge, he did not voice any complaints about his salary on Empire.
Smollett has maintained he was a victim and had no part in the alleged attack.
Roberts spoke to Smollett on February 14 in his only interview about the incident. She discussed her feelings on the matter on Thursday’s Good Morning America.
“This touches all the buttons. It’s a setback for race relations, homophobia, MAGA supporters. I cannot think of another case where there is this anger on so many sides and you can understand why there would be,” Roberts said.
Roberts also explained how the interview figured into the timing of events.
“At that time, on Tuesday, police officers were saying that his account was consistent, it was credible, and that he was being cooperative. Now this was all before the interview aired on Thursday, and then we found out about the brothers.”
CBS News reported on Saturday that Abel and Ola Osundairo claimed to police that Smollett knew them and alleged that the actor “paid them to participate in the alleged attack.” The two are brothers from Nigeria, who were arrested the week prior and released without charges. According to the brothers’ attorney, Ola was an extra on Season 2 of Empire, and Abel was Smollett’s personal trainer.
Smollett was taken into custody Thursday morning and faces a felony charge of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false report. Smollett’s attorneys, Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson, released a statement to ET.
“Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked. Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”
ABC News chief legal affairs anchor Dan Abrams told Roberts on Thursday that her interview with Smollett will likely be important evidence in the case going forward.