A grand jury investigation into the Jussie Smollett case appears to be drawing to a close, which could result in severe consequences for the “Empire” TV star.
If Smollett is found culpable of staging a hoax, he will not be alone — he will join the ranks of other liberal public figures who made it big using hoaxes.
Rev. Al Sharpton is known for his role in the infamous Tawana Brawley case involving an African-American teenager girl who claims to have been raped by a group of white men and left with racial epithets scrawled on her body, in the same way that Smollett claims to have been jumped and had bleach thrown at him. In that case, a grand jury found the story to be fabricated, though not before it launched the career of Sharpton who now serves as an MSNBC host.
Americans may have forgotten that another current-day MSNBC TV host, Joy Reid, came under fire just last year for what appears to be a hoax of her own.
In 2018, Mediaite exposed Reid for previously posting homophobic comments on her blog. Mediaite reported that Reid’s blog included “defending homophobia, gay jokes, and the outright mocking of gay people and homosexuality” in addition to a reference about cringing “at the sight of two men kissing.”
Reid initially denied that she had posted the remarks on her blog, instead spinning a tale that she had been a victim of hack. However, a fly in the ointment appeared when The Daily Beast suspended her newer writings while an investigative reporter looked into the matter, and then the Federal Bureau of Investigations got involved.
According to USA Today, Reid’s attorney John H. Reichman said in a statement to media outlets that the FBI was looking into “potential criminal activities surrounding several online accounts, including personal email and blog accounts, belonging to Joy-Ann Reid.”
Reid allowed the charade to go on a bit longer, until according to Deadline Reid finally “came clean,” apologized for the homophobic remarks and admitted there was indeed no evidence of a hack. Without the pressure of an FBI criminal investigation, it is safe to suggest that Reid would have never capitulated.
Another liberal African American, Sen. Cory Booker — now a presidential candidate for 2020 — has found himself backpedaling from his own tall tale.
While serving as the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Booker began to tell stories about a tough-talking street bully named “T-Bone” — “a drug pusher who the mayor has said threatened his life at one turn and sobbed on his shoulder the next.”
The only problem? It appears that “T-Bone” was Booker’s imaginary friend.
According to National Review, a fellow city council member and longtime ally of Booker’s since 1998 shared with the Newark Star Ledger that “T-Bone” is “a figment of (Booker’s) imagination, even though Booker has talked about him in highly emotional terms and in great detail.”
Booker’s mentor and friend shared that Booker confided in him during a “tough conversation” in 2008 that T-Bone was not one individual, but instead a “composite” of people he had met in Newark.
Like the stories by Sharpton, Reid and Smollett, Booker’s tale began to unravel.
However, it wasn’t until he was on the campaign trail for U.S. Senate that reporters really began to press Booker for details of this mysterious figure. When pressed, Booker spoke of out of both sides of his mouth telling Esquire magazine in 2008 that T-Bone is “1,000 percent real” yet also an “archetype.” He also tap-danced around the question in an interview with The Washington Post.
To this day, Booker has never quite answered the question, although he has noticeably dropped the “T-Bone” stories from his campaign stump speeches.
One can’t help but compare these tales to current-day news about Smollett.
As if to put a cherry on top, Smollett’s brother and sister posted a Malcolm X quote on Instagram in defense of their brother: “This is the media, an irresponsible media. It will make the criminal look like he’s the victim and make the victim look like he’s the criminal.” It seems a highly ironic statement now.
In a plot twist that might have surprised even the media-savvy Malcolm X, Sharpton, Reid, Booker and perhaps now Smollett belong to a unique club of liberal public figures who have gotten away with faking their way to the top.
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.