Just when it looked like the Jussie Smollett couldn’t sink any further into farce, the country’s most notorious actor outdid himself.
Under cross-examination by special prosecutor Dan Webb, the former “Empire” star decided to make a spectacle of objecting to Webb’s questions because they included words that Smollett himself had written on social media in the run-up to the purported “attack” Smollett reported to Chicago police in 2019.
The prosecutor, Smollett implied, was offending “every African-American in the room.”
Webb: I don’t intend to do that sort.. you can read your messages aloud.
Smollett then reads his own message
— Matt Finn (@MattFinnFNC) December 7, 2021
At issue was Webb’s decision to read aloud text messages Smollett sent to Abimbola Osundairo, one of two brothers who’ve testified that Smollett hired them to stage a fake hate crime that involved two supporters of then-President Donald Trump purportedly beating Smollett up on a freezing Chicago night in the dead of winter.
The text messages included repeated use of the “n-word,” according to Fox News. Apparently, the black actor considered it offensive that a white prosecutor was using a word he himself had written — and snapped.
“Can you spell or say ‘the n-word’ out of respect for every African-American in this room?” Smollett asked, according to a Twitter post by Fox News national correspondent Matt Finn. “You’ve been saying that word a lot.”
On the face of it, the remark is ludicrous. Smollett claimed a word he used in a text to a black man was disrespectful to black spectators and court staff solely because it had come out of a white man’s mouth.
In other words, he was making rules for the prosecutor that he himself felt no compunction to abide by.
To his credit, Webb declined, with seven words that made it clear he was being neither fooled nor baited into playing Smollett’s game:
“I don’t intend to do that, sir,” he said.
Instead of the demeaning alternatives that Smollett set, Webb offered the actor a chance to read the texts himself — thereby giving “every African-American in the room” a chance to be offended by the defendant.
Smollett did so, Fox reported.
While Smollett’s objection was hypocritical on its face, it’s not hard to guess what the intent actually was.
As the Chicago Sun-Times has reported, the actor is on trial for six counts of felony misconduct related to making false statements to police about an alleged attack by two white men early in the morning of Jan. 29, 2019.
From the get-go, the case has been played out against a racial backdrop, with the added element of Smollett being openly gay thrown into the mix to give it a “homophobic” angle too.
Making an issue of the prosecutor’s use of one of the most offensive words in the English language would only serve to push the racial aspect of the case even more so that, instead of a straight-up case of a man giving police false information in repeated instances, Smollett could cast himself as an oppressed black man being victimized by a justice system allegedly plagued with “systemic racism.”
While the jury in the case includes only one black member, further framing himself as the victim could be the only chance Smollett has of facing justice in a case where evidence of his guilt is overwhelming.
And if that takes snapping at the prosecutor from the witness stand, trying to set rules for his own cross-examination, then that’s what Smollett is capable of.
There’s no doubt the man has chutzpah. Even claiming that two racist, homophobic Trump supporters would be out on the streets attacking an actor probably only a handful of Trump supporters had ever heard of at the time takes a certain amount of shamelessness.
But the hypocritical effrontery of implicitly accusing a prosecuting attorney of racism merely for reading aloud words Smollett himself typed into a cell phone is nearly beyond the pale. (If that’s not too offensive to Mr. Smollett & Co.)
Virtually any sentient human being who has even casually followed the Smollett case long ago came to the obvious conclusion that what happened between Smollett and the Osundairo brothers in the Windy City almost three years ago was far from a hate crime — that it was, instead, a laughably inept fake of a racially motivated attack, transparent and ultimately futile.
The fact that it pretty clearly involved corruption of the already suspect justice system in Cook County, Illinois, only made it worse.
Webb’s response to Smollett showed he refused to play the game. The rest of the country should, too.
Smollett’s argument was a farce from the beginning. Tuesday’s antics over an “n-word” Smollett wasn’t so offended by when he used it only made it more so.
But there’s nothing funny about it.
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