The Irresponsibility of Jussie Smollett

Written by Jonathon Clay de Hale

When Jussie Smollett’s account of being attacked first broke at the end of January, I watched with interest but didn’t say anything. It seemed a bit cartoonish: two white guys wearing MAGA hats giving a gay black man a beat down in the middle of Chicago on a night of sub-zero temperatures, yelling racial and anti-gay epithets, dousing him with bleach, tying a noose around his neck and proclaiming, “This is MAGA country!” You couldn’t have scripted a better scenario for a hate crime in the age of Trump.

Yet there was a picture of Smollett with a cut on his swollen face and the claim that his ribs were broken. “Could be,” I thought.

Flash forward a month and that sympathy-inducing photo was replaced by a grim mugshot following his arrest. His story had collapsed like a flimsy warehouse stuffed full of grievances, and he was charged with one count of felony disorderly conduct.

It turns out the “attack” was scripted—and practiced and paid for. The whole thing stinks from start to finish.

As a white, middle-aged, middle-class, conservative Christian who generally supports Trump’s policies (I didn’t support his candidacy or vote for him), I found myself unexpectedly disturbed by Smollett’s race-baiting smear.

It wasn’t so much the act itself. There are dozens of documented hoaxes in which members of various minority groups claim to be victims of so-called “hate crimes.” There are fake notes, fake nooses, fake church burnings, fake harassments and fake confrontations with fake Vietnam vets. You can read about them here, here, here and here.

The difference is that Smollett is the first celebrity of any stature to have made such a claim.

None of the small-time hoaxes listed above provoked the response that Smollett’s received. According to one writer, Smollett, a leading actor on Fox’s popular television drama Empire, “has deep roots in Hollywood and the Democratic party.” Actors, musicians, comedians and politicians all pounced the moment they heard the report:

Freshman U.S. Representative Rashida Talib (D-MI) tweeted, “When one of the most famous black and gay men in America is not safe, the message is clearer than it has ever been. The dangerous lies spewing from the right wing is killing & hurting our people.”

U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) called the alleged attack an “attempted modern day lynching.” U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) did the same but added, “No one should have to fear for their life because of their sexuality or color of their skin. We must confront this hate.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) said, “New York State calls this attack on Jussie Smollett what it is—a hate crime. Homophobia and racism will not be tolerated—not not now, not ever.”

Actress Mayim Bialik wrote, “What happened to @JussieSmollett is horrific and maddening.”

Pop singer Ariana Grande gasped, “what happened to jussie makes me really f—ing sick to my stomach. i can’t believe s–t like this is really still happening everyday. what kind of world?”

Actress Halle Berry assessed the attackers’ mental state. “The fact his presence on this earth would be perceived as a threat to anyone only shows the magnitude of their fear and confusion.”

Pop star Katy Perry declared, “this is a racist hate crime and is disgusting and shameful to our country”

Actor Kevin Bacon reacted with, “So sad and horrified at this #JussieSmollett attack … Hate will not win.”

Smollett’s deception was not only swallowed hook, line and sinker by his celebrity friends and supporters, it was immediately shared and amplified through their public platforms to hundreds of thousands of their followers. His incendiary account of being jumped for walking while black (and gay) created a virtual mob that unleashed a national wave of hostility toward the stereotyped “attackers” he described.

Trump and his supporters should “burn in hell.” The “red hat is the new white hood.” If you wear a MAGA hat, “you attacked Jussie.” How dare “homophobic haters” hurt someone so loving and giving! The attackers were “emboldened by Trump’s white nationalist racist rhetoric and racist a–holes.” The “rotting human flesh carcasses who did this” need “swift justice.” The “dangerous lies spewing from the right wing is killing & hurting our people.”

An ordinary person claiming an alleged hate crime may make national news, but the story and the reaction to it often stays localized. Several of the documented hoaxes have taken place on college campuses. Local law enforcement, rather than the FBI, investigates. Social media accounts are limited to small circles of the accuser’s friends.

But for someone with Smollett’s name recognition, followers and connections, it takes next to nothing to trigger outrage at the national level. It’s the difference between using a firecracker and a stick of dynamite.

Read what writer Joshua Rivera wrote in GQ magazine:

The assault of Jussie Smollett is not an isolated incident. Americans who do not fit the white, straight, male, or Christian mold of the ruling class are being targeted with concerning regularity, in synagogues and churches and nightclubs. The perpetrators are not all white, but they are cultivated in a culture built to reward the narrow slice of Americans that have lives that mirror those of the powerful and largely disregard the misfortune of those who do not.

Hear that? Men like me—straight, white, male, Christian—are assaulting men like Smollett with “concerning regularity.” America has a problem and I’m it.

That’s why I was unexpectedly troubled. Smollett’s fans, friends and apologists are angry with me in response to something that never happened.

Smollett’s vanity project did a lot of damage, perhaps more than all those other hoaxes combined. He not only smeared conservative, white Americans with a brutal lie, but his deception revealed the seething hostility that national opinion leaders hold toward them, too. Bringing those emotions to a boil risked a national riot and only served to deepen the divisions we face in this country over race and homosexuality.

“A lie,” the old proverb goes, “can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting its shoes on.” Today, a lie can circle the globe in an instant, become the accepted wisdom in a day, and have protesters demonstrating in a week. The truth never stands a chance.

This time the truth won out. Next time, we may not be so fortunate.

IFI Worldview Conference!

On Saturday, March 16, 2019, the Illinois Family Institute will be hosting our annual Worldview Conference. This coming year, we will focus on the “transgender” revolution. We already have commitments from Dr. Michelle Cretella, President of the American College of Pediatricians; Walt Heyer, former “transgender” and contributor to Public Discourse; Denise Schick, Founder and Director of Help 4 Families, and daughter of a man who “identified” as a woman; and Doug Wilson, who is a Senior Fellow of Theology at New Saint Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho, and pastor at Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho .

The Transgender Ideology:
What Is It? Where Will It Lead? What is the Church’s Role?

Click here for more information.