It’s all but official. Empire co-star Jussie Smollett lied about getting attacked by two Trump supporters on a sub-zero Chicago street.
Smollett says two men attacked him, doused him with bleach, threw a noose-like rope around his neck and yelled racial and homophobic slurs at him. Oh, and one cried something about being in “MAGA country,” meaning President Donald Trump’s supporters were to blame.
Smollett’s story had gaping holes in it from Day One.
Why couldn’t the cops recover any video footage of the attack despite a plethora of cameras working around the scene of the “crime?”
Who plans to mug someone in sub-sub zero temperature at 2 a.m.?
Why did Smollett ask the police to turn off their body cameras during the initial interrogation?
Just how many loud and proud MAGA-wearing souls live in hard-left Chicago?
Bleach freezes around 19 degrees Fahrenheit. How could it be liquid during the attack?
That’s just a partial list.
Still, most media outlets focused on the alleged attack over those critical questions. The narrative proved irresistible for our biased press. A gay black man assaulted by Trump supporters?
The story seemed scientifically engineered for The Resistance TM. And, sadly, today’s reporters too often belong to that group.
Smollett insisted this weekend he didn’t stage the attack in question, even while lawyering up. It’s a perfect time to look back and see what we’ve learned from this news cycle.
The short version? It isn’t pretty. The longer one? It’s a seven-step process.
ONE: The Media Will Never, Ever Learn
The Smollett “attack” story came directly on the heels of the Covington kids news cycle. That’s where virtually every media outlet pounced on a selectively edited video rather than root out the truth. The mea culpas came slowly but surely in that case, but the damage was done. Reporters didn’t do their due diligence.
If said reporters couldn’t approach Smollett’s claims with the skepticism they deserved, it meant they hadn’t learned a thing from the Covington debacle.
TWO: Celebrities Won’t Apologize (And Here’s Why)
A gaggle of stars rushed to attack both President Donald Trump and his supporters following the alleged attack. Ellen Page lead the way, savaging the Trump administration for directly leading to the attack.
They were wrong. Will they apologize? Why on earth would they? No reporter will ask them to clarify their initial remarks. Their industry peers won’t expect an apology of any sort. There’s no incentive for them to say they’re sorry … so they won’t.
Ava DuVernay, a big league director, isn’t ready to apologize, apparently.
THREE: The Roseanne Standard Won’t Apply
Roseanne Barr’s signature show came back last year, wowing fans and bringing in huge ratings in the process. That’s all the more impressive since situation comedies are not exactly huge these days. She fired off one awful, racially-charged tweet at a former Obama official and ABC fired her, quickly and without giving her a full chance to explain herself.
What Smollett did is far worse. He made the Chicago Police Department, which on a perfect day has its hands full, waste countless hours – and resources – chasing a lie. So why hasn’t Fox fired Smollett yet? Is the company waiting for more information? That’s technically wise, but why wasn’t Barr given similar treatment?
For now, the show’s executive producer is standing firmly by Smollett as his story crumbles to Thanos-like dust.
FOUR: Trump Derangement Syndrome Is Very Real
Smollett, like many of his Hollywood peers, loathes President Trump. That’s fine. He’s Tweeted about his feelings, too. Again. No problem. Now, think about how much you must hate someone, anyone, to implicate the person’s followers via a manufactured attack. That’s an entirely different level of rage, and it’s rooted in an insane philosophy.
Trump Derangement Syndrome, or TDS, to be precise.
Yet we’ve seen variations of TDS playing out in La La Land. Why would a respected director like Judd Apatow claim Trump will bring back the worst of Nazi Germany? Or how could professional film critics cheer a movie (Fahrenheit 11/9) that posits the same argument, but in technicolor?
TDS explains a great deal, including how several notable stars appear psychologically broken following Trump’s shocking 2016 electoral win.
FIVE: Local Media Often Trumps National Outlets
This reporter had never heard of Rafer Weigel and Rob Elgas before the Smollett debacle. Now, they deserve to have a larger, more robust following. These Chicago-based reporters covered the nuances of this story without veering into opinion or bias. They updated their audiences on social media, sharing hard news over conjecture. Can mainstream media reporters say the same?
SIX: There’s a Reason the Chicago Police Moved So Cautiously
It’s been fascinating to watch the Chicago Police in action during this news cycle. Their public information officer (PIO) spoke with caution and consideration with every new revelation. Why? The presumption would be the department is racist and wouldn’t be willing to collar Smollett’s attackers with the vigor afforded a white victim.
Also noteworthy: A blistering 2016 report from Democratic Mayor Rahm Emmanuel citing systemic racism within said department.
All eyes were on Chicago. It appears, for now, the department did its job thoroughly under extreme conditions. One caveat … the department had more than a few leaks, apparently, and that reminds us of how the government works of late. Not good.
SEVEN: Here Comes the Spin
In a sane world, reporters would dig deeper into this fracas. Will Smollett be charged for his actions? When will Fox, which broadcasts Empire, fire him? Why did so many people rush to judge this case?
The biggest question? Why are similar hoaxes so prevalent in the Age of Trump?
Instead, here’s what we’re likely to see. “Smollett’s story is real, even if his specific case isn’t.” Or similarly themed tales pointing to other hate crimes or simply the fact they do, on occasion, happen.
Naturally, the least trustworthy name in news, CNN’s Brian Stelter, led the way.