News

U.S.

CNN’s Stelter: ‘We May Never Know What Happened’ in Smollett Case

Actor Jussie Smollett leaves court after charges against him were dropped by state prosecutors in Chicago, Ill., March 26, 2019. (Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters)

CNN anchor Brian Stelter said Tuesday that “we may never know what happened” in the case of Jussie Smollett, just moments after Cook County prosecutors dropped all charges resulting from his allegedly having staged a hate crime to boost his career.

“The narrative has once again changed from victim to villain back to victim. It’s been very confusing…people don’t know what to believe and we may never really know what happened on the street that night in Chicago,” Stelter said.

Smollett, who starred on the hit show Empire, was charged with disorderly conduct earlier this month after police determined he falsely reported a bigoted attack, which police say he paid two friends of his to carry out. Prosecutors struck a deal with Smollett in which he agreed to perform community service and forfeit his $10,000 bond to the city in exchange for the dismissal of the charges. Joe Magats, the assistant state’s attorney who made the final decision to drop the charges, explained in a Tuesday interview that the deal does not constitute an exoneration.

“We stand behind the investigation, we stand behind the decision to charge him, and we stand behind the charges in the case. The mere fact that it was disposed of in an alternative manner does not mean that there were any problems or infirmities in the case or the evidence,” Magats told the New York Times.

Smollett told police that two white men attacked him while he was walking home from a Subway sandwich shop at 2 a.m. on a frigid January night in Chicago. The men, according to Smollett’s account, punched him, placed a noose around his neck, and poured bleach on him while shouting racist and homophobic slurs, before eventually yelling “this is MAGA Country” as they fled.

The Chicago police department announced late last month, following a 23-day investigation, that it had uncovered overwhelming evidence to suggest Smollett staged the attack. Two Nigerian brothers, one of whom worked on Empire, were arrested in connection with the attack and told the police that Smollett paid them by check to stage the crime. Police then recovered the check Smollett issued in exchange for their services, as well as surveillance footage of the brothers purchasing the items used in the staged attack.

“Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson said at a February press conference announcing the charges against Smollett. “This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn, and certainly didn’t deserve. . . . The stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with his salary.”

Stelter later clarified on Twitter that, despite the evidence produced by the police, Smollett’s account of the incident should be granted equal credibility to that of police and the men who testified against him.

Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel joined Johnson on stage for a Tuesday afternoon press conference in which they lambasted the state attorney’s office for “whitewash[ing] of justice” by dropping the charges against Smollet.

“You have a person using hate crime laws that are on the books to protect people who are minorities from violence, to then turn around and use those laws to advance your career and your financial reward, is there no decency in this man?” Emanuel asked.

Most Popular

Sports

It’s Time for Colin Kaepernick to Move On

Colin Kaepernick. Remember him? Below-average quarterback. Above-average poseur. Not “activist,” not really. Activists actually say stuff. Kaepernick almost never says anything. He’s like the Queen or most popes — you have to read the deep-background musings of supposed members of his inner circle to get ... Read More
U.S.

What The 1619 Project Leaves Out

“The goal of The 1619 Project, a major initiative from The New York Times that this issue of the magazine inaugurates, is to reframe American history by considering what it would mean to regard 1619 as our nation’s birth year,” The New York Times Magazine editors declare. “Doing so requires us to place ... Read More
Elections

Trump and the Black Vote

"Donald Trump is a racist, white supremacist, white nationalist. So are his supporters." Some version of that refrain is heard almost hourly somewhere in mainstream media. Democratic politicians seem to proclaim it more often than that. Listening only to the Left, you'd conclude that more than half a ... Read More
PC Culture

Courage Is the Cure for Political Correctness

This might come as some surprise to observers of our campus culture wars, but there was a time, not long ago, when the situation in American higher education was much worse. There a wave of vicious campus activism aimed at silencing heterodox speakers, and it was typically empowered by a comprehensive regime of ... Read More
U.S.

The Age of Miscalculation

On August 7, 1998, more than 200 people were killed in terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. Americans learned three names most of them never had heard before: Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden, and al-Qaeda. On August 20, 1998, President Bill Clinton ordered a ... Read More