By NAOMI FEINSTEIN
After “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett reported last month that he was victim of a racist and homophobic attack, Chicago Police now believe he orchestrated the attack upon himself, charging him with a felony of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report. He is being held on $100,000 bail and must surrender his passport.
Initially, Smollett told the police that he was beaten by two masked men as they yelled racist and homophobic slurs at him, placed a rope around his neck, and poured an unknown substance on him. Additionally, the studio where “Empire” is filmed received a letter filled with homophobic and racist language just a week before the attack.
Police were skeptical of Smollett’s story from the beginning, but still treated him as a victim until they completed the investigation. In a press conference, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said Smollett paid two brothers $3,500 to stage the attack as well as provided money for the materials. Johnson believes this was a stunt for Smollett to increase his publicity in hopes of receiving a salary promotion. Smollett, however, denies the allegations.
“Actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Johnson said. “Why would anyone especially an African American man use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations?”
In the immediate aftermath of the attack, the news and entertainment media glorified Smollett as a symbol for the gay and African-American communities. However, many, including Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, were dissatisfied with how quick media organizations were to cover the attack.
“I just wish that the families of gun violence in this city got this much attention,” Johnson said.
Although hate crimes are widespread and happen daily, they rarely make the news. But in this case, it did because it involved a public figure. Thus, it was alarming that the media is so quick to publish a story about a celebrity, but when a common citizen deals with such an ordeal, it is rarely mentioned. Even staffers working for Good Morning America had doubts about Smollett’s story after he had an interview with GMA host Robin Roberts.
Some feel this will negatively impact future victims of hate crimes as they may be afraid to speak up in fear of being accused of making it all up. Smollett could have been a great leader, but his ego got in the way.
This ordeal will definitely further divide our country as the media will be under a lot of scrutiny for believing Smollett’s story and not waiting for the investigation to be concluded. In the end, Smollett damaged his reputation and the media’s credibility with individuals accusing media organizations for distorting reality.