U.S.

Questions for Those Who Believed Jussie Smollett

Jussie Smollett performs at the 47th NAACP Image Awards in Pasadena, Calif., February 5, 2016. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)
His case involves implausibility piled upon implausibility.

The “we reported the Jussie Smollett case responsibly” contention has been blasted to smithereens. Twitter accounts and headlines in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times reported as fact Jussie Smollett’s wildly implausible allegations, and many other journalists did so as well, not to mention the innumerable activists and celebrities who piled on. So, a question for all of the above. Why did you believe Jussie Smollett? Let’s try to catalogue the red flags.

  1. Had you ever heard of Jussie Smollett before the alleged January 29 attack?
  2. Do you think it likely that fans of President Trump had?
  3. Smollett has said that his public anti-Trump statements were the likely reason for the attack. Is it really true that he was an especially prominent anti-Trump voice?
  4. Did you think it strange that Smollett or his representatives were, from the beginning, telling TMZ a different story than they told the police? He or his representatives told TMZ the attackers yelled, “This is MAGA country.” This was news to the police.
  5. Related to (4), don’t you think that if Smollett’s supposed attackers had yelled, “This is MAGA country,” he would have told the police in his initial interview with them, right after the alleged assault?
  6. How did Trump-loving racist homophobes know that Smollett would be at a Subway sandwich shop at 2 a.m.? Smollett has said going to the Subway was a spur-of-the-moment decision.
  7. It was extremely cold in Chicago the night of January 29. Assuming Trump-loving racist homophobes wanted to track down and attack Smollett, and maybe knew where he lived, as the shop was close to his apartment, wouldn’t they have waited for more agreeable weather?
  8. How likely do you think it is that attackers would shout, “This is MAGA country” in Chicago, a place that no one thinks is MAGA country?
  9. If Smollett’s supposed attackers did not know he was going to be at that exact spot at that exact moment and would have been willing to attack any random gay and/or black man in Chicago, how difficult would it have been for them to find a gay and/or black man to assault without going to the trouble of a 2 a.m. attack on a frigid night? Couldn’t they have just waited outside a gay bar on a summer night?
  10. Don’t you think for the attackers to have yelled a racist slur as well as a homophobic slur as well as having a bottle of bleach as well as having a noose sounds a bit overdetermined, like bad television writing?
  11. Smollett supposedly received a viciously nasty letter threatening him with lynching a week before the alleged assault. Is it likely that either two separate racist parties wanted to attack him at essentially the same time or else the January 29 attackers would telegraph their intentions with a letter?
  12. Don’t you think it strange that Smollett had a phone with him, yet didn’t call the police on that phone to inform them what had happened and which way his attackers had fled?
  13. Don’t you think it strange that his attackers fled without much harming Smollett or robbing him?
  14. Related to (13), did it not occur to you that the whole alleged attack looked a bit like the criminal equivalent of a press release, meant to send a message rather than accomplish anything?
  15. If you were beaten up, would you somehow remember to pick up your Subway purchase afterward?
  16. If you were subjected to a vicious, racist, homophobic, life-altering attack that included a hint of lynching, would you really leave the rope draped around your neck and calmly walk, not run, home?
  17. Would you then walk past the security desk at your apartment building without telling anyone what had happened?
  18. Would you wait 40 minutes before informing the police what had happened?
  19. Smollett said he kept the rope around his neck to preserve evidence for the police. Yet in the police report filed on the night in question, he was quoted as saying he was reluctant to make a police report at all. Why would he preserve evidence to bolster a report he didn’t intend to make?
  20. Why, as an outspoken gay black man with a long history of casting aspersions on Trump, would he not immediately file a police report about an incident that seemingly confirmed his worst fears?
  21. If you were beating up somebody who was on his phone, would you maybe take the phone away from him so as to eliminate the possibility of a witness overhearing what you were doing?
  22. Have you noticed that alleged Trump-related hate crimes seem to have a tendency to turn out to be fiction?
  23. Did you think it odd that Smollett refused to give police his phone?
  24. Did you think it odd that Smollett didn’t give police his phone records for two weeks, and when he did, they were heavily redacted, as though he might be hiding something?
  25. Chicago reporters on the case began relaying that their sources in the police department were skeptical about Smollett’s claims soon after the alleged assault. Did you not notice?
  26. Did you take away any lessons from Covington?
  27. If not, why?

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