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Project 21, a prominent black leadership network, on Monday called for the NAACP to rescind embattled “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett’s Image Award nomination for “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series,” which was announced before he was charged with staging a hate crime.
“Everyone has a reason to be disappointed with Jussie Smollett right now, and these accumulated reasons justify the NAACP taking swift and appropriate action to remove him from consideration for its Image Award,” Project 21 co-chairman Council Nedd II said in a statement.
The 50th NAACP Image Awards are scheduled for March 30. The NAACP did not immediately respond when asked for comment.
“Smollett is charged with perpetrating a hate crime hoax that wasted valuable police resources and stoked racial tensions nationwide."
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“Smollett is charged with perpetrating a hate crime hoax that wasted valuable police resources and stoked racial tensions nationwide. It hurt our nation’s ability to heal its racial wounds and made the NAACP’s civil rights goals harder to achieve,” Nedd II continued. “The NAACP needs to make it clear that his behavior is not OK by removing him from contention for an Image Award.”
In January, Smollett told police that two masked men attacked him, put a rope around his neck and poured bleach on him as he was walking home from a Subway restaurant. The actor, who is black and openly gay, said the masked men beat him, made racist and homophobic comments and yelled, "This is MAGA country" before fleeing the scene.
However, the Chicago Police Department alleges that Smollett paid the Osundairos by check for a "phony attack" in order to take "advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career."
“The NAACP needs to make it clear that his behavior is not OK by removing him from contention for an Image Award.”
The 36-year-old musician and actor was arrested for allegedly filing a false police report in the incident and released on a $100,000 bond. He pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of disorderly conduct stemming from the alleged hoax. Smollett is also being investigated for allegedly sending himself a threatening hate letter to the "Empire" set, which could potentially land him behind bars for 10 years for mail fraud.
“The NAACP was founded to help move America beyond our deeply racist past. Generations of men and women – both black and white – have dedicated their lives to that noble cause. It would be nothing short of a slap in the face to those civil rights heroes for the NAACP to now honor Smollett with an Image Award while he’s suspected of using symbols of racial barbarism – including a noose – to shamelessly advance and promote his career,” Project 21 member Jerome Hudson said in a statement.
"Empire" producers and showrunners previously stated that Smollett would be cut from the remainder of Season 5.
Smollett's attorneys previously told Fox News they've "witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system. The presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon at the expense of Mr. Smollett and notably, on the eve of a Mayoral election. Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.”
The National Center for Public Policy Research’s Project 21 aims to “provide the conservative movement with a versatile and energetic organization capable of responding quickly and decisively to fast-breaking issues” and “promote the views of African-Americans whose entrepreneurial spirit, dedication to family and commitment to individual responsibility have not traditionally been echoed by the nation’s civil rights establishment,” according to the group’s website.
Fox News’ Jessica Sager contributed to this report.