They say there is no such thing as bad publicity. But we have to disagree when it comes to this crazy news story. The Empire actor said he was the victim of a racist and homophobic hate crime that left him hospitalized. Turns out that was not exactly the case. He was arrested and charged for filing an allegedly false police report depicting the incident.
This whole thing went down in late January when Smollett claimed he was ambushed outside of a Chicago restaurant by two unidentified suspects who yelled racist and homophobic slurs at him. Smollett, who is both black and gay, said the two assaulted him, poured some sort of chemical substance on him, and wrapped a rope around his neck.
That isn’t the craziest part of the story. Since it first made headlines, the story has taken some interesting turns from tragedy to hoax. Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson spoke in a news conference shortly after Smollett’s arrest. Johnson said that Smollett was unhappy with his salary and the attack was staged for his benefit. The police also said that Smollett paid two men $3,500 to fake the attack. Smollett is standing by his initial claim. Over at Empire, however, they said that Smollett will no longer appear on the show to “avoid disruption on set.”
What’s more, the Jussie Smollett case somehow became part of a larger controversy around believing survivors. Ever since the #MeToo movement in the past recent years, there has been a huge call to believe survivors. The movement began to spread virally in October 2017 as a hashtag of social media to demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual harassment and assault. So the Smollett case certainly fit into the current Me Too atmosphere. Even though Smollett was arrested and it was a hoax crime, advocates and actual victims are pointing out that hate crimes are real and widespread.
On March 26, Chicago prosecutors shocked the world by dropping criminal charges against Smollett. He appeared at an emergency court hearing that morning where the case was dismissed. Smollett’s legal team gave a statement following the news. “Today, all criminal charges against Jussie Smollett were dropped and his record has been wiped clean of the filing of this tragic complaint against him. Jussie was attacked by two people he was unable to identify on January 29th.”