“If Jussie Smollett lied, look at the harm he caused Chicago — and America” – Chicago Tribune editorial headline, February 21, 2019
On January 29, 2019, actor Jussie Smollett reported to Chicago police that he was assaulted by two men in ski masks.
Smollett told ABC Good Morning, America host Robin Roberts that “…he went across the street to a Subway restaurant… As he was getting his food,” The Hollywood Reporter writes (Feb. 13), “he texted his manager, Brandon Z. Moore…and asked him to call him. While Moore was on the phone, Smollett said he was crossing the intersection and heard someone shout ‘Empire’ and then, ‘F—ot Empire n—er.’ He explained that he then turned around and asked, ‘What the f— did you just say to me?’ He saw the attacker, he said, who was wearing a mask over his face. The attacker then said, ‘This is MAGA country, n—er.’ The attacker, Smollett said, then punched him in the face.
“ ‘So I punched his ass back,’ Smollett recalled, explaining that they ‘started tussling’ by some stairs in an icy environment. As they were fighting, Smollett became aware of a second attacker, who he says was kicking him in his back.’ ”
He told Roberts that he “was frustrated by those who didn’t believe this story. ‘How can you not believe that? It’s the truth.’ ”
While some had their doubts from the beginning, I tend to believe what someone says until proven otherwise.
The otherwise came after a three-week investigation by Chicago police which ended in the arrest of Smollett yesterday on a “felony charge of disorderly conduct after he allegedly filed a false police report.”
It gets worse.
According to a report in The New York Times (Feb. 21), “[Chicago] police say the staged assault was carried out by two brothers to whom the actor had paid $3,500 and that they have a copy of the check Mr. Smollett used to pay them. Also recovered, they said, were phone records that showed Mr. Smollett speaking to the brothers an hour before Mr. Smollett said the incident took place, and an hour after that time. …
“[Police] Superintendent Eddie Johnson… seemed particularly upset that Mr. Smollett had arranged, he said, a fake assault that included a noose around his neck.
“ ‘Why would anyone — especially an African-American man — use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations?’ he asked. ‘How could someone look at the hatred and suffering associated with that symbol and see an opportunity to manipulate that symbol to further his own public profile?’ ”
It didn’t take long for opinion writers to weigh-in.
“An object lesson in what happens when people in positions of political and cultural authority indulge their biases by suspending disbelief,” Noah Rothman writes in The New York Times (Feb. 18).
On Wednesday (Feb. 20), CNN’s Don Lemon talked about his personal interactions with Smollett.
“I know him, not best friends, but I do know him. …
“So, he told me,” Lemon told his audience, “in his own words, what he said happened. But I’ve also got to tell you, to be quite honest, that a lot of people, including people in the community, people of color and gay people, had questions about this from the very beginning, the veracity of this story. …
“… a lot of this doesn’t add up. And if Jussie’s story isn’t true, he squandered the goodwill of a whole lot of people. He even lied to a lot of people, if it’s not true, including me…”
“…there’s enough racism in this country,” Lemon added, “that you don’t have to make it up. There’s enough homophobia that you don’t have to make it up. There’s enough political division that you don’t have to make it up.”
If it is ultimately determined that Jussie Smollett staged his own attack, he did more than squander goodwill, he lied, then told more lies to cover-up the first. His reputation and credibility are gone and his career is likely in jeopardy.
However, because of the political and cultural angle as well as the past reputation of the Chicago Police Department, some are a little more divided.
“Despite the inconsistencies,” Director Ava DuVernay wrote on Twitter. “ I can’t blindly believe Chicago PD. The department that covered up shooting Laquan McDonald over a dozen times? That operated an off-site torture facility? That one? I’ll wait. Whatever the outcome, this won’t stop me from believing others. It can’t.” — February 17, 2019
If Smollett lied, the question remains, why, Jussie? Why?
Coming Monday: Why broadcaster Bob Costas got booted from covering the Super Bowl.