If Smollett is guilty, he must pay — hate crimes are serious, faking them should be, too

“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett has made a lot of people look like fools – most of all himself.

From the start, it seemed obvious that Smollett’s claim that he was a victim of a hate crime was a hoax. It strained credulity. The whole scenario sounded like something dreamed up in a Hollywood writer’s room of leftists covered in #resistance tattoos. It was preposterous and awful at the same time.

Now Smollett stands accused of a felony charge of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report and could face up to three years in prison if convicted. Federal charges could soon follow for the mailed racist threat letter that he allegedly sent to himself.

JUSSIE SMOLLETT GOT LOTS OF OXYGEN FROM CNN, OTHER NEWS OUTLETS – NO WONDER PEOPLE DON'T TRUST THE PRESS

Many of us saw this day coming. All of us should have.

Who really believed Smollett’s story? It never made sense. The gay, black TV star claimed that a duo of cartoonishly pro-Trump thugs poured bleach on him and wrapped a noose around his neck – and yet somehow caused no major injuries.

No one saw anything. Nearby surveillance didn’t show an attack. And yet Smollett said his “attackers” tracked him down and assaulted him.

This “attack” supposedly occurred in the wee hours of the morning on Jan. 29, in freezing temperatures in Chicago. But Smollett managed to both keep his sandwich in hand and the noose in place when he made it to a friend’s apartment.

None of this added up.

The game should have been over from the start. Claiming that your assailants yelled “This is MAGA country!” during an assault in Chicago is what you’d expect someone who has never talked to Trump supporters to think Trump supporters would say.

This was TV dialogue masquerading as testimony.

Of course, Smollett had a lot of help with this con. The entire left-wing grievance apparatus, and their opportunistic allies in the national media, jumped into action.

If the word “allegedly” appeared in news coverage, it was quickly drowned out when the supposedly neutral anchor turned to outraged “analysts” on panels designed to bash all things Trump.

The Democrats seized on this obvious hoax as an opportunity to defame millions of Trump supporters across the country. These cynical victimologists tried to weaponize shame on national TV – but wound up shaming themselves in the process.

Top Democratic politicians and presidential hopefuls like Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Cory Booker of New Jersey were no more measured in their initial responses.

The Democrats seized on this obvious hoax as an opportunity to defame millions of Trump supporters across the country. These cynical victimologists tried to weaponize shame on national TV – but wound up shaming themselves in the process.

Now that the details of the plot have been reported, the amateurishness and recklessness of it almost defies belief.

According to police, Smollett paid his alleged co-conspirators – Ola and Abel Osundairo – with a check. The brothers reportedly bought supplies – including masks, a hat and noose – and it was all captured on video.

This kind of incompetence could only come with a sense of political invulnerability. Smollett knew that as a gay black man with a starring role on a hit TV show, the media would give him every benefit of the doubt to believe him.

Those who asked questions early on were smeared and shouted down. Smollett’s story fit the narrative of bigoted, evil Trump supporters – a narrative that has infected the editorial decisions of many newsrooms coast to coast. He knew that they would go for his tall tale, and they did.

For a time, it worked. An alliance of convenience between Smollett and partisan Democratic media turned this faux local crime story into a propaganda coup. They managed to trash all things MAGA for weeks as this unfolded. But driving the anti-Trump clicks while you can and apologizing later isn’t ethical journalism. It’s fake news.

There were real victims from all this. Considerable police resources were devoted to finding Smollett’s “attackers” in a city with a tragic homicide rate and far too many unsolved cases.

Smollett must pay for what he is alleged to have done if he is found guilty. If hate crimes are going to be taken seriously, the cynical exploitation of them be severely punished as well.

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If Smollett is convicted he should serve time in prison.  The law either has meaning or it does not. He brought this humiliation on himself, and an example must be set.

And nobody should be walking around Chicago – or anywhere else – yelling “This is Jussie country” anytime soon.