Jussie Smollett’s wicked tale of hateful abuse seemed to tear off the scab of racism in Trump-era America. His infuriating story exploited every stereotype: two white thugs – bozos wearing the president’s signature “Make America Great Again” hat – viciously tortured and tormented a gay, black actor on the streets of Chicago, one of America’s great cities, but one riven by violence.
Not only was the purported victim beaten by the racist bullies, we were led to believe. We were told they mock-lynched poor Jussie, putting a wretched noose around his neck, pouring bleach on his proud black skin, calling him the racial epithet n----- and humiliating him in a manner that sought to replicate every disgusting race-based assault we have ever heard of.
I was outraged by the neo-Jim Crow-era attack. But like many supporters of the president, I was also embarrassed by and defensive about the allegations. Damn, I thought, is there truth to the oft-made charge that the president’s incendiary language incites screw-loose followers to acts of racism?
No, can’t be. This story is a concoction. A noose? Give me a break.
Then I remembered how last October I publicly disbelieved the widespread suspicions that the accused CNN-bomber Cesar Sayoc was also a booster of the president. Then police said Sayoc was caught sending his pathetic pipe bombs and it turned out that he was indeed the Trumpiest of Trump supporters. Fortunately, his intense hatred was mitigated by his incompetence; none of his bombs exploded.
But because of my rush to judgment on Sayoc, I suspended disbelief about Smollett. Sure the “Empire” actor’s story seemed a stretch, but let the Chicago cops and the FBI sort it out with a proper probe.
Now the meticulous investigation is complete, and what is alleged by police is an ugly, cynical, selfish attempt by a disgruntled actor to exploit every hate crime, every lynching, and every real victim of a race-based crime for his own bottom line.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson says Smollett’s scam is beneath contempt. At a Thursday morning press conference to discuss Smollett’s arrest and felony charge against him of filing a false police report, the black, Chicago-born and bred Johnson showed neither mercy nor pity for the pathetic actor.
“He did it because he was dissatisfied with his salary,” spat Johnson. In a city beleaguered by real crime, the chief angrily recounted how 12 detectives were assigned to break this infuriating fake.
Johnson detailed how his officers poured through street surveillance cameras to identify the attackers as African-Americans, one of whom worked on “Empire,” and he said they were recruited into Smollett’s low down and dirty scam for $3,500.
Now Trump critics like Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey – both seeking their party’s presidential nomination – are forced to explain how they rushed to judgment about the supposed “modern-day lynching.” And every pundit who preached that the “crime” was ultimately the president’s fault needs to apologize.
From now on let¹s just blame the criminals for their crimes, and stop attributing their dirty deeds to convenient political enemies.