The Jussie Smollett Hate Crime Hoax: What Really Happened?

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The Jussie Smollett Hate Crime Hoax: What Really Happened?

Jussie Smollett is an actor best known for playing Jamal Lyon in the drama Empire, a US TV show about the hip hop music industry. Smollett is black and openly gay, and has recently hit headlines after claiming to be a victim of a violent hate crime.

According to Smollett the attack consisted of physical and verbal abuse, with his attackers clearly shouting racist and homophobic remarks. The attack also attracted a lot of attention when ‘MAGA’, Trump’s slogan, was positioned as the motive behind the crime.

Smollett’s account of the attack was no doubt horrifying, but as the plot thickened, it became even more disturbing. Not because of the assault, or the attackers, but because it became increasingly clear that the whole thing was a hoax.

Here’s everything you need to know about Smollett’s initial version of events, and how it began to seem like a staged hoax, orchestrated by Smollett himself.

The attack according to Smollett

The alleged hate crime against Jussie Smollett started in January, when a threatening letter addressed to Smollett arrived at the Empire production offices.

The letter looked as though it had been written by a child, but where you’d usually see a return address, the sender had just written ‘MAGA’ referring to Trump’s slogan ‘Make America Great Again’. 

Inside the letter magazine letters had been cut out and stuck to the paper so that they spelled out ‘you will die black f**.’ Next to the message was what looked like a children’s drawing of a gun pointed at a man being hung. There was also a white powder in the envelope, which later turned out to be crushed up Tylenol. But the worst was yet to come.

On January 29, Smollett claimed to have been attacked by two Trump supporters. He insisted the crime was one of hate, claiming that his attackers were both white and that they shouted racist and homophobic insults at him.

The nature of the attack (according to Smollett) reflected the message in the letter, with his attackers beating him, putting a noose around his neck and pouring a substance that he believed to be bleach on him. 

The unravelling truth behind the hate crime hoax 

As you’d expect, the initial response to Smollett’s report of the vicious incident was pure shock and sympathy. The public, police and famous figures all voiced support for the Empire actor and the manhunt for the attackers began. Even President Trump responded to the event, stating ‘it doesn’t get worse as far as I’m concerned.’

Just a day after the attack supposedly happened, and a few hours after Smollett had been discharged from hospital, the police began searching CCTV footage for evidence of the attack, and the attackers themselves.

Smollett himself walked police through what had happened, and where. But when he pointed out where the attack had happened, it became clear that no street cameras were pointing towards that particular spot. 

The police were able to identify potential suspects, but started to doubt the validity of Smollett’s story. Smollett then became frustrated, claiming that the police would have reacted differently had the attackers not been white..

But the police continued to treat Smollett as a victim, the Chicago Police Superintendent even publicly supported Smollett on a TV interview. 

However, on February 13, police arrested two brothers, Obabinjo Osundairo and Abimbola Osundairo. Interestingly, the brothers were both of Nigerian descent, so not, as Smollett described, white.  And as the investigation continued, it became apparent that one of the brothers had worked with Smollett on Empire. 

The plot thickened when police investigators asked Smollett for his phone, he refused several times, claiming that there were private videos and information stored on the device. Police wanted the phone because Smollett had apparently been on the phone to his manager during the attack.

It was later revealed that Smollett had been texting the brothers, supposedly for fitness training purposes. The brothers claimed that the attack had been a set up, staged by Smollett himself.

And to further back up their accusation, police found a cheque addressed to the brothers, from Smollett for $3,500. Whilst Smollett claimed the money was for training resources (a work out scheme and diet plan), the brothers claim it was their payment for staging the hate crime. 

More evidence continued to present itself against Smollett, and the actor was arrested on February 21 for filing a false police claim. 

Whilst the Empire star hasn’t been charged yet, investigations are still ongoing, and if Smollett is proven guilty, he will likely face jail time.

The media’s role in the hoax

Before anything had been proven or confirmed, media companies pounced on Smollett’s story. It was just what the leftist publications needed to fuel their anti-Trump propaganda. The attack was called ‘far right America’s endgame’ by GQ Magazine, and many blamed Trump’s Make America Great Again campaign for the hate crime. 

So because the media jumped the gun, ‘fake news’ was spread, spurring political agendas and misplaced sympathy. Media companies and celebrities who supported Smollett prematurely are being asked to publicly apologize. 

Why did Smollett stage the attack? 

If it’s proven that Smollett did stage the attack, the question on everyone’s mind will be ‘why?’. There are several theories floating around, some believe he did it for a career boost, as a publicity stunt, but others believe there’s a more political reason.

Smollett’s version of events included how the attackers were Trump supporters who shouted about making America great again. The initial media response focused heavily on the MAGA slogan as a cause for hatred and brutality, and this is perhaps what Smollett was aiming for. Even before the attack, Smollett was openly anti-Trump.

The timing of all this is suspect as this is happening at exactly the same time that some democrat lawmakers were trying to pass an anti-lynching bill in congress. Some people suspect, this was all just a political stunt that went wrong.

What will happen to Smollett now? 

Smollett’s attack is still under investigation, so there’s still a chance that he could be found innocent. However, the evidence is stacking against him, and it’s looking likely that the actor will be convicted for filing a false report.

If that happens, the actor will be facing jail time of 1-3 years. But for Smollett the consequences have already begun, having been removed from the cast of Empire after being arrested. 

The consequences of the scandal, regardless of the outcome, will also affect more people than just Smollett. If the actor is proven innocent, there’ll be outrage at the fact that a victim was doubted and not believed. But CNN host Van Jones, and many others, believe that if he’s proven guilty, and the attack was a hoax, it will ‘hurt the cause of social justice for the true victims of hate crimes.’

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