Of all the people in America angry about Jussie Smollett’s arrest and alleged crimes, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson may have been the most upset — and at a press conference Thursday, he lambasted the “Empire” actor over the purported “publicity stunt” he staged.
Smollett, who had said he was attacked by two white men who yelled homophobic and racial slurs at him — including telling him “This is MAGA country” — is now facing felony disorderly conduct charges for filing a false report.
Prosecutors say that Smollett faked the Jan. 29 attack on himself, paying two men $3,500 to stage the assault. At a hearing Thursday, a judge set the actor’s bond at $100,000 and ordered him to surrender his passport.
If convicted, he could face up to three years in prison, according to ABC News. He’ll also face the invective of men like Superintendent Johnson.
Hours before the court hearing, a visibly emotional Johnson addressed the media, beginning by excoriating them for paying so much attention to the attack and its aftermath.
“Before I get started on why we’re here, as I look out into the crowd, I just wish that the families of gun violence in this city got this much attention,” he said.
But here we were, and all because of an individual who used this nation’s scars for his own personal aggrandizement. That fact didn’t escape Superintendent Johnson.
“I know the racial divide that exists here. I know how hard it’s been for our city and our nation to come together. And I also know the disparities and I know the history,” Johnson said.
“Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career. I’m left hanging my head asking ‘why?’
“Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations?” Johnson continued.
“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? How can an individual, who’s been embraced by the city of Chicago, turn around and slap everyone in the city in the face with these false claims?”
Lest you think Smollett had primarily damaged himself, Johnson reminded the media that “bogus police reports cause real harm.”
“They do harm to every legitimate victim who’s in need of support by police and investigators as well as the citizens of this city.”
“I’m offended by what happened, and I’m also angry,” Johnson said. “I love the city of the Chicago and the Chicago Police Department, warts and all. But this publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve.”
To make things worse, Johnson noted that “celebrities, news commentators and even presidential candidates” had opined on the case even though, according to police, the whole thing was staged.
The alleged details of the crime are roughly what we thought they were from the pieces that we had already gleaned through the media. According to police, Smollett had originally sent himself a hate-filled letter to the “Empire” set that contained hate speech and brought out the HAZMAT team. That apparently didn’t get the attention he wanted, so he then allegedly paid two individuals $3,500 to stage the attack.
And, according to Johnson, Smollett’s motive was that “he was dissatisfied with his salary.”
This is why we’ve dragged America through cultural emotional turmoil, if law enforcement is to be believed: because one man wasn’t getting the money he thought he deserved on his television show.
Johnson’s anger should mirror everyone’s. Smollett is obviously innocent until proven guilty, but what he’s accused of is despicable; this is little more than hijacking the debate over race and homophobia in America, using one of the strongest and most vile symbols of bigotry imaginable, and doing it all over money.
“I only hope the truth about what happened receives the same amount of attention as the hoax did,” Superintendent Johnson said near the end of his press conference.
Don’t we all.
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