Opinion

KERNS: Is Jussie Smollett The Modern Tawana Brawley?

Jen Kerns Contributor

Multiple sources have told ABC7 in Chicago that police are investigating whether the attack on “Empire” TV star Jussie Smollett was staged.

Though a Chicago Police Department spokesperson said that claim is “unconfirmed,” two suspects have been arrested who were reportedly close with Smollett — appearing on the set of “Empire” with Smollett as well as recently working out at a gym with the openly-gay, African American star who claims that two men attacked him and screamed, “This is MAGA country!”

If the attack turns out to have been staged, it will be the biggest racially-motivated hoax since the Tawana Brawley case in the late 1980s.

A Fox Nation documentary titled, “Scandalous: The Mysterious Case of Tawana Brawley” chronicled an alleged racially-motivated attack against an African-American teen in New York in 1987. The teen claimed that she had been raped by a group of white men and was left with “racial slurs” scrawled all over her body. Brawley showed up at an emergency room with text written on her body including the words “KKK,” “n**ger” and “b**ch.”

The case served as a “springboard” for a young civil rights activist by the name of Reverend Al Sharpton, who led the charge of riling up the African-American community and assisting the teen and her family with the claims. The activism included marching in the streets of New York to demand “justice” for the alleged racially-motivated attack and high-profile press conferences to accuse members of the New York law enforcement community perpetrating the vile acts.

The story rocked New York and fanned the flames of racial tensions even beyond the Empire State.

Like the Smollett case, the attack caught the attention of Hollywood stars including Bill Cosby who donated $25,000 as a reward for information on the case and boxing promoter Don King who pledged $100,000 toward Brawley’s college education.

The Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan also joined Rev. Sharpton as nearly 1,000 people from the African-American community marched in the streets chanting, “No justice, no peace.”

However, as details emerged the African-American teen’s story begin to fall apart and Fox News reported that “after an extensive investigation filled with twists and turns, a grand jury found the allegations to be nothing more than an elaborate hoax.” The grand jury found that not only had she not been the victim of forcible sexual assault, but that she likely had concocted the story as a ruse. It is believed that Brawley had simply run away from home for the weekend and — fearing her step-father’s punishment — had created an elaborate tale of an attack.

Although the grand jury ultimately cleared the accused men, severe damage had been done — one of the officers committed suicide from the stress of the case and a race war was incited throughout New York by Sharpton and his allies.

The Fox documentary called the Brawley case “the lie that made Al Sharpton famous.”

Could the Smollett case fall into the same category?

It is unthinkable, but it is possible that this is “Tawana Brawley 2.0.”

The African-American TV star has thus far refused to hand over complete cell phone records from the night of the attack, which Chicago police state has made it difficult for law enforcement to get to the bottom of the case. He also failed to show up for further questioning with police on Thursday, though his representative claimed he made himself available later in the day for a conversation. (It isn’t clear if the availability was in person or over the phone.)

If Smollett staged his own attack, it could be the greatest hoax perpetrated on the American people since the Brawley case, which took place 31 years ago this winter.

Unlike the Brawley case, the penalties for falsely reporting a crime ought to be swift and fierce in order to deliver a message that false claims are not only a waste of precious law enforcement resources, but an affront to every true victim of crime, bigotry and racism in America.

Jen Kerns (@JenKernsUSA) served as spokeswoman for the California Republican Party; spokeswoman for California’s Proposition 8, which went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court; and as a Fox News writer for the 2016 U.S. presidential debates.


 The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.