Reactions to Jussie Smollett case shift to confusion and outrage

Reactions to Jussie Smollett case shift to confusion and outrage

The national outrage that simmered after actor Jussie Smollett said he was attacked by people shouting racial and anti-gay slurs was fueled in part by celebrities who spoke out loud and strong on social media.

But the outrage has now been replaced by surprise, doubt and bafflement as the singers, actors and politicians who came out in support of the Empire star struggle to digest the strange twists the case has taken. Some conservative pundits, meanwhile, have gleefully seized on the moment.

The narrative that just a week ago seemed cut-and-dry has become messy and divisive — and it’s all playing out again on social media.

Smollett, who is black and gay, said he was physically attacked last month by two masked men shouting racial and anti-gay slurs and “This is MAGA country!”— a reference to the Make America Great Again slogan used in President Donald Trump’s election campaign. Smollett said the attackers looped a rope around his neck before running away as he was out getting food at a Subway restaurant.

Celebrities including Ariana Grande, Zendaya, Kerry Washington, Shonda Rhimes and Andy Cohen rallied behind Smollett immediately. They focused on the alleged hate crime as a microcosm for the ills of America in 2019 and how intolerance can lead to violent acts. Smollett’s own celebrity and activism for the rights of the LGBTQ community helped raise the profile of the case even more.

But then published reports emerged that police believe Smollett may have staged the attack — something the actor has vehemently denied through his lawyers — or that a grand jury may hear evidence in the case.

TMZ has reported that the case is on its way to court next week, according to unidentified police sources. These sources, who are connected to the ongoing investigation, claim the police department is keeping the initial suspects, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, within reach in downtown Chicago in efforts to shield them from external influence. Apparently, they insist on blocking any contact between the Osundairo brothers and Smollett. The brothers named Smollett as part of the attack’s orchestration. Given this development, the measures to keep Smollett from contacting them point to a reversal. While the Chicago Police Department continued to affirm Smollett’s treatment as the victim in this case, the Osundairo brothers’ testimonies could be leveraged to dismiss the complaint and even lead to Smollett’s own indictment for filing a false police report.

If Smollett is found to have fabricated planned the scenario and fabricated his story, he could earn felony charges given the severity of the accusations. The penalties for this kind of false report ranges between probation to a prison sentence between 1 to 10 years. The police have already stated that Smollett would be held accountable if required.

On Saturday, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the trajectory of the case had “shifted” — that two brothers who had been questioned had been released without charges and investigators wanted to speak to Smollett again . Guglielmi did not elaborate. On Sunday, he issued a statement saying that police “are not in a position to confirm, deny or comment on the validity of what’s been unofficially released.”

Smollett’s attorneys said Saturday that he would continue to cooperate with police but that he felt victimized by the suggestion he played a role in his attack.

Skeptics, including conservative pundits Dinesh D’Souza and Tomi Lahren, seized on the doubts that have arisen.

“And Libs wonder why we don’t believe their BS stories,” Lahren tweeted Saturday. On Sunday, she criticized those who used social media after the attack to push “the narrative (that) Trump supporters are racist homophobes.”

The response from Smollett’s celebrity supporters has ranged from silence to confusion and disbelief.

Author Roxane Gay tweeted Saturday that she doesn’t know what to say, but that the situation is a “mess” and a “travesty.”

“I genuinely thought no one, and especially no one that famous, could make something like that up,” Gay wrote. “The lie is so damaging. The time the CPD has spent/wasted on this. The people who supported him.”

GLAAD, a nongovernmental media-monitoring organization founded by LGBT members of the media, on Thursday reiterated its support for Smollett. The group said in a statement that the actor had been doubly victimized: first by the attack and then by the doubts cast around it.

When Smollett first reported that he was assaulted, Democratic New Jersey senator and presidential candidate Cory Booker called it a “modern-day lynching.” On Sunday, he said he would reserve judgment “until all the information actually comes out from on-the-record sources.”

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay said she is waiting for more information too. She tweeted on Sunday that she “can’t blindly believe” the Chicago Police Department.

But if there is a consensus among those who very vocally supported Smollett from the outset, it’s that no matter what happens in this case, they will still believe victims.

DuVernay said: “Whatever the outcome, this won’t stop me from believing others. It can’t.”

Gay echoed her sentiments, tweeting that she does not regret believing Smollett. “I’m not going to stop believing people who say they have suffered,” Gay wrote. “Because more often than not they are telling the truth.”

Former TIERs executive director, Olumide Makanjuola couldn’t have put it better when he tweeted:

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5 Comments

  1. Sum
    February 18, 22:31 Reply

    The fact that the alleged attackers are Nigerians is inconsequential compared to Smollete allegedly setting this whole thing up. If it turns out to be that he actually did set it up, it will set the fight for the lgbtq at least a few years back.

    • BRYAN PETERS
      February 19, 23:06 Reply

      I don’t think so. Even if the allegations turm out be true, which I hope they don’t, it’s still consequential that Nigerians had something to do with it. Paints us in a bald light.

  2. Lizzy
    February 19, 00:36 Reply

    Fucking painful that he did this. To make it worst, the dude are Nigerian and this will have serious impact for at home. Now, many will start thinking we stage our own attack. This privilege gay celeb is crazy

  3. Kvng1862
    February 20, 05:52 Reply

    I don’t think he can stage something like that, this hate attack was planned by a higher power and wants to bring him down. Jussie is an inspiration to all black and gay pple all over the world. For the fact that he is living an open life is a pain to dome pple. He has money, fame, and might even be in a happy relationship so i don’t see what he stands to gain from staging such an attack, am certainly sure it’s not attention cos he has enough of that already. Those guys who attacked him were paid by someone else and are assured they will be no harm that’s why they have the confidence to claim jussie sent them to do the job.
    Did u see the way he was brutalized, hanged and even poured some bleaching liquid, nd u say he staged something that almost took his life. I doubt it

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