OPINION: Was Jussie Smollett Inspired By Hollywood?

(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)

Lloyd Billingsley Policy Fellow, Independent Institute
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Across the country, people of all persuasions don’t know what to make of “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett. On the other hand, as movies and television confirm, Smollett was hardly the first to dramatize fakery.

In the 1971 Dirty Harry, a crazed sniper is gunning down innocents all over San Francisco. Inspector Callahan (Clint Eastwood) is tracking him, but the shooter pays a thug to beat him up and tells city bosses Callahan was responsible for the attack.

In similar style, Jussie Smollett paid two Nigerians to attack him, hoping to throw off the police. Unlike the Eastwood movie, the hired attackers inflicted no actual damage on Smollett, who wound up requiring more suspension of disbelief.

Smollett’s antics are also similar to a Monty Python sketch about the notorious Piranha brothers Doug and Dinsdale, known for nailing victims’ heads to the floor. Victim Stig O’Tracy (Eric Idle) furiously denies that the notorious Dinsdale Piranha nailed his head to the floor.

Informed that the police had film footage of the gangster nailing his head to the floor, O’Tracy concedes, “Well he had to, didn’t he? I mean there was nothing else he could do, be fair. I mean, he didn’t want to nail my head to the floor. I had to insist. He wanted to let me off.”

In similar style, the Chicago police had ample evidence that Smollett faked the whole thing but Illinois state attorney Kim Foxx sealed the records and dropped 16 felony charges. So as Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson lamented, that prevented the evidence from appearing in court.

“I have been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one,” Smollett proclaimed after Foxx dropped the charges. So for the actor and his defenders, it was a declaration of innocence.

In  The Godfather (1972), mob soldier Carlo Rizzi throws a beating on his wife Connie. When Connie’s brother Sonny (James Caan) rushes to the rescue, a rival mob assassinates him. Younger brother Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) confronts Carlo.

“That little farce you played out with my sister,” Michael says, “you think that could fool a Corleone?”

“Mike, I’m innocent,” Carlo says. “I swear on the kids.” Michael isn’t having it.

“Don’t tell me you are innocent,” Michael Corleone says, “because it insults my intelligence and makes me very angry.” Carlo fesses up, and that’s the end of him.

Smollett, by contrast, continues to proclaim his innocence, even though he had to forfeit his $10,000 bond and spend two days of community service stuffing envelopes for the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

The Chicago police are pretty angry about it. After all, they pulled officers off of homicide cases to track down Smollett’s attackers. They gathered evidence but were not allowed to present it in court. Across the country, people of all persuasions are angry, with good reason.

Suspension of disbelief is standard for “Empire,” but should not apply to a case that is bogus to all but the willfully blind. Actual victims of real violent crimes are the most qualified to tell Smollett: “Don’t tell me you are innocent. It insults my intelligence and makes me very angry.”

Lloyd Billingsley is a policy fellow at the nonprofit Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif.

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