News & Politics

'Empire' Star Jussie Smollett Owes 4 Groups of People More Than an Apology

Jussie Smollett (by: zz/Dennis Van Tine/STAR MAX/IPx via AP)

At a powerful press conference on Thursday, Chicago police revealed how they learned Empire star Jussie Smollett had orchestrated a hate hoax by paying $3,500 to stage the attack and make it look like a racial and homophobic hate crime. Chicago Superintendent of Police Eddie T. Johnson called on Smollett to apologize to three groups of people, and President Donald Trump added a fourth group by Twitter.

“Absolute justice would be an apology to this city that he smeared, admitting what he did. And then be man enough to offer what he should offer up in terms of all the resources that were put into this,” Johnson said in a scathing conclusion to the press conference Wednesday morning.

Here are the four groups to whom Smollett owes an apology and restitution.

1. 18 people killed since the false report.

“Bogus police reports cause real harm. They do harm to every legitimate victim who is in need of support by police and investigators as well as the citizens of this city,” Superintendent Eddie Johnson told reporters. In an article Tuesday, the Chicago Tribune‘s John Kass proved exactly how true that is.

Kass reported that between 20 and 24 detectives were assigned to the Smollett case. In the same period, “there were some 18 people killed in Chicago after Smollett began telling his story in late January.”

The reporter blamed Mayor Rahm Emanuel for the excessive number of detectives assigned to the Smollett case. He concluded his important article with the story of Dejon Irving, a 1-year-old child who was shot in the head. It seems as though a street gang was targeting the boy’s mother. Dejon Irving did not die, but he is on life support.

“I don’t think there were two dozen detectives assigned to Dejon Irving’s case. But he’s not a star to be used by politicians in pursuit of power. He’s not a symbol,” Kass reported. “Politicians don’t tweet his name. He’s just a little boy from Chicago, shot in the head.”

Stories like this are exactly why it is a Class 4 felony to file a false police report. Vulnerable people need the police to protect them, and when police are busy chasing down false leads, they can’t be keeping the streets safe. Something’s got to give — and in this case, that something may have been the investigation into Dejon Irving’s tragic shooting.

2. Victims of true hate crimes.

Superintendent Eddie Johnson also warned that Jussie Smollett’s hate hoax might make it harder for people to believe victims of true hate crimes.

“I’m also concerned about what this means moving forward for hate crimes,” Johnson said. “Now, of course, the Chicago Police Department will continue to investigate all reports of these types of incidents with the same amount of vigor that we did with this one.”

“My concern is that hate crimes will now publically be met with a level of skepticism that previously didn’t happen,” the superintendent added.

When the Smollett story first broke, LGBT activist groups rushed to champion the Empire star. GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) all rushed statements connecting this hate hoax to the disturbing trend of violence and threats directed toward people who identify as LGBT.

I personally am not a fan of separating crimes into different categories based on an alleged “hate” motivation, but I think it is important for black people and LGBT people who are victims of heinous crimes not to suffer under a suspicion that they might be crying wolf just like Jussie Smollett. All crimes should be thoroughly investigated and weighed impartially, and I think Superintendent Eddie Johnson was correct that this hate hoax damages the credibility of true victims.

Johnson, as a black man, spoke particularly powerfully to this issue.

“This morning, I come to you not only as the superintendent of the Chicago Police Department but also as a black man who spent his entire life living in the city of Chicago. 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,” he said. “This announcement today recognizes that Empire actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.”

“I’m left hanging my head and asking why. Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations?”

While liberal activists and politicians rushed to champion Smollett in the name of intersectionality, people in the black and LGBT communities should be the first to condemn this hate hoax because it belittles the real struggles of real people.

3. The people of Chicago.

Superintendent Eddie Johnson also condemned Jussie Smollett for bringing shame and approbrium on the people of Chicago.

“How can an individual who has been embraced by the City of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in this city in the face by making these false claims?” he asked. “Chicago hosts one of the largest pride parades in the world, and we’re proud of that as a police department and also as a city.”

“We do not nor do we ever tolerate hate in our city whether that hate is based on agindividual’s sexual orientation, race, or anything else,” he declared. “So I’m offended by what has happened and I’m also angry.”

Johnson added, “I love the city of 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.”

In order to raise his profile and his salary, “Smollett attempted to gain attention by sending a false letter that relied on racial, homophobic, and political language. When that didn’t work, Smollett paid $3,500 to stage this attack and drag Chicago’s reputation through the mud in the process,” the police chief lamented.

While the pride parade might be controversial in many circles, it helps to illustrate the fact that Chicago does not deserve the reputation of a city that incubates animus against LGBT people. Jussie Smollett’s hate hoax cast the city in a terrible light — as a place of racism and hatred toward LGBT people.

4. Trump supporters.

Superintendent Eddie Johnson mostly stayed away from political issues in his statement, with the possible exception of saying he wished victims of gun violence got the same attention as Jussie Smollett. Perhaps for this reason, Johnson did not demand that Smollett apologize to supporters of President Donald Trump.

Smollett had told police that the men who attacked him yelled, “This is MAGA country!” referring to the “Make America Great Again” hats popular among Trump supporters. These hats have been unfairly demonized by many liberal and media figures. The Empire star’s decision to mention them only enflamed their anger.

On Thursday morning, Trump himself tweeted, “[Jussie Smollett], what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!?”

Indeed, Trump supporters have been physically attacked just for wearing MAGA hats. In the wake of the Smollett hoax, one man had a gun pulled on him.

Trump is correct — Jussie Smollett owes Trump supporters, and especially those who proudly wear MAGA hats, more than an apology.

Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.