“Empire” star Jussie Smollett is now officially a suspect in his own hate crime, but anchors and pundits on CNN are still making excuses for the actor’s alleged behavior.
Smollett claimed last month in a TMZ report that he was attacked in Chicago by two white men who called him racial and homophobic slurs, put a noose around his neck, poured bleach on him, and shouted, “This is MAGA country!” After a long investigation into the alleged incident, Chicago police officially classified Smollett as a suspect Wednesday night for filing a false police report. (RELATED: Smollett Charged With Disorderly Conduct)
While politicians who spoke out about the alleged hate crime raced to amend their statements, talking heads on CNN were still questioning if Smollett was truly to blame for his behavior.
Anchor Don Lemon, who said he identified with Smollett because he is also black and gay, was initially quite tough on the alleged hoaxer during his show Wednesday evening. However, Lemon also questioned if it was Smollett’s “fault” that he lied about the attack during an interview with “Good Morning America.”
“In the court of public opinion, Jussie has lost. He’s lost the fight in the court of public opinion, and that’s where his battle is,” Lemon said. “He lost that because of how — not his fault — people were, I don’t what they were saying to him. Maybe because of his representatives, who knows.”
CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson pushed back on Lemon, asserting, “I don’t know if it’s not his fault … he went out and he gave the interview.”
Earlier in the night during the handoff between Chris Cuomo’s show and Lemon’s, Lemon claimed Smollett merely “embellished” his story about the alleged crime and said it could be an opportunity to have a larger discussion.
Keith Boykin, former aide to Bill Clinton, declined to opine on Smollett himself, but gave a pass to people who automatically believed the actor’s story, claiming that it fits the “climate” of the United States. He argued:
It’s important to understand the climate we’re in in this country makes these things believable because of the fact when you have Nazis marching in Charlottesville, when you have hate crimes there on the rise, when you have attacks on black LGBTQ people and particularly black trans people on the rise, it’s understandable to people to think that.
Anchor Erin Burnett questioned if there is a more responsible way to handle such bombastic allegations like the ones made by Smollett, which Boykin used as an opportunity to attack President Donald Trump.
“[People] are handling responsibly by reevaluating what they’re stating unlike Trump who never reevaluates anything and just completely doubles down on everything,” Boykin said, adding that Trump himself condemned the alleged attack.