WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Thursday lashed out at Jussie Smollett amid news that the actor had been arrested for staging a bogus hate crime.
Smollett, who turned himself in to Chicago police Thursday, had garnered national headlines over the last few weeks after claiming he was the victim of a politically driven, racist and homophobic attack.
“What about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!? #MAGA” Trump tweeted, referencing his 2016 presidential campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
Smollett, who is African-American and openly gay, told police several weeks ago that he was attacked during the early hours of Jan. 29 as he was returning to his Chicago apartment after visiting a Subway restaurant. Smollett claimed that two men who were wearing masks shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him, poured a bleach-like substance on him, threw a noose around his neck and shouted, “This is MAGA country!”
The actor’s story began to unravel, however, after police identified and questioned two “persons of interest” who were captured on surveillance video near the scene of the alleged attack. The men, later identified as brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo, told police that Smollett had given them $3,500 to help him stage the stage the attack.
The pair also told police that a threatening letter with the word “MAGA” written on it, addressed to Smollett and sent to the actor’s production company was written by Smollett himself.
During a press conference on the matter Thursday afternoon, Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson called Smollett’s actions “unconscionable.”
“Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Johnson said. “I’m left hanging my head and asking why. Why would anyone, especially an African American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations? How could someone look at the hatred and suffering associated with that symbol and see an opportunity to manipulate that symbol to further his own public profile? How can an individual who’s been embraced by the city of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in this city in the face by making these false claims?”
“Absolute justice would be an apology to this city that he smeared, admitting what he did,” Johnson continued. “I’m offended by what’s happened and I’m also angry.”
President Trump’s son, Donald Trump, Jr., also took to Twitter to address the Smollett matter, pondering how long it would take Hollywood to blame his father’s administration for the actor’s behavior.
“Has anyone set the over-under on how long it will take Jussie Smollett and his Hollywood/Media enablers to find a way to blame ‘America’’ and ‘society’ for his disreputable actions?” Trump Jr. tweeted Wednesday. “We all know it’s only a matter of time.”