DID JUSSIE SMOLLETT JUST PULL OUR LEGS?

Femi Bamigbetan

February 18, 2019

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It’s been almost three weeks since actor and singer Jussie Smollett came forward saying he was the victim of a hate crime in an attack that briefly left him hospitalized. But now news reports, citing anonymous sources, are calling Smollett’s story into question, fueling a firestorm of outrage and confusion over what to believe and how to feel about the case.

Smollett, who is black and gay, plays a queer character in the Fox drama Empire. Initial reports of the attack were quickly met with an widespread outpouring of support from Smollett’s colleagues, the LGBTQ community at large, and politicians. Empire co-creator Danny Strong, for example, condemned the attack and tweeted his support of Smollett.

 

 

 

Chicago police said from the outset that they were treating the incident as a possible hate crime. Media reports followed every development in the unexpected case of a celebrity who claimed to be a victim of targeted violence and hate.

But in the weeks since Smollett’s story first made headlines, the narrative has taken a number of twists and turns — from assumed tragedy to suspected hoax. Several reports, citing unnamed sources, suggest that police are investigating whether Smollett helped orchestrate his own attack. And federal investigators are reportedly looking into whether Smollett played a role in sending a threatening letter to himself prior to the attack.

Smollett, however, has stood by his initial claims, with his lawyers arguing in a statement that he “has now been further victimized” by the allegations of a hoax.

On Wednesday, February 13, police arrested two Nigerian men, Olabinjo Osundairo and Abimbola Osundairo, brothers who were later found to have known Smollett prior to the incident. Their lawyer says one of them had worked as an extra on the set of Empire; Smollett’s lawyer says another was his personal trainer for a brief stint, though neither attorney specified which brother served which role, or whether they were both talking about the same person.

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Police raided their homes in search of the liquid suspected of being poured on Smollett. They recovered Empire scripts, a phone, and a black mask.

Until Friday, February 15, the brothers were being treated by authorities as “persons of interest.” But by that afternoon, the narrative had turned. Police released them both without charges, saying new evidence has “shifted the trajectory of the investigation.”

No matter how the facts shake out — for all the speculation, police are still not calling Smollet a “suspect” — the case now hits at the core identity that Trump shares with his supporters, perpetuating a dangerous worldview that the media is corrupt and the stories of racism and bigotry are better off not being believed

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HOAX INCIDENT JUSSIE NEWSPAPRES REPORTS SMOLLETT STORY
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