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Thursday, February 13, 2020

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The story was the literal definition of incredible. Jussie Smollet, a C-list actor on a good day, claimed that last January, on a frigid Chicago night, he was assaulted at random by two people in one of the city’s ritziest neighborhoods. The two strangers, white men both, threw a noose around the actor and poured “an unknown liquid” on him while shouting homophobic epithets and “this is MAGA country!” (Streeterville, Chicago, is not MAGA country.)

In other words, Mr. Smollett would have us believe that a) Two people were out randomly assaulting strangers in the middle of one of the coldest nights of the year in one of the coldest cities in America b) they would recognize Mr. Smollett, who is not exactly a tabloid fixture c) they would just happen to be carrying around a noose, and d) they would know that Mr. Smollett is gay. Oh, and they’d add in a “MAGA” reference for good measure while committing a random assault.


The story was quite plainly fake, part of an epidemic of “hate hoaxes” that have occurred since Donald Trump’s election. Many who should know better fell for it hook line and sinker, though. California Sen. Kamala Harris, then running for president, for one, tweeted that “Jussie Smollet is one of the kindest, most gentle human beings I know. I’m praying for his quick recovery. This was an attempted modern day lynching. No one should have to fear for their life because of their sexuality or color of their skin. We must confront this hate.” One wonders whether it was this display of laughable credulity that began the slow collapse of Ms. Harris’s presidential aspirations.

Mr. Smollet’s tale quickly unraveled. It later emerged that — quelle surprise — he himself was the author of the “assault.” He allegedly paid off two Nigerian men to do the deed. Mr. Smollett was allegedly in contract renegotiations for his show “Empire,” and figured being the victim of a “hate crime” would earn him a salary bump. (Sadly, he was probably right about that.)

“His story — he said two men beat him up, shouted racist and anti-gay slurs, threw bleach on him and put a noose around his neck — fell apart when brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, who were bodybuilders and aspiring actors whom Smollett knew from the ‘Empire’ set and the gym, told police the actor had paid them $3,500 to stage the attack,” the Associated Press reported.

Now, finally, Mr. Smollett looks likely to pay for perpetrating the hoax. Jussie “Smollett was thrust back into the spotlight on Tuesday after a grand jury indicted him for a second time on charges of lying to the police,” the AP continued. “Special Prosecutor Dan Webb said in a statement Tuesday that Smollett faces six felony counts of disorderly conduct stemming from four separate false reports that he gave to police.” (The first time he was charged, the case was bizarrely dropped.) The prosecution is long overdue.

One final point to the would-be Jussie Smollets out there: If you are going to perpetuate a hate hoax, can you at least do one that doesn’t insult our intelligence?


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