Who Should Be Embarrassed?

Mar 31, 2019 · 503 comments
Jenifer (Issaquah)
Alex Jones in his deposition for the Sandy Hook victims who are suing him must have mentioned Jussie Smollett 500 times. It is as if he alone uncovered the deception which has been totally proved (although I'm not sure it has). Conservatives cling to these stories like Linus to his blanket. Young white girl gets killed by black man in what should just be a local story but instead it's screaming headline news for days. They have a huge megaphone with Fox News, Sinclair, etc. and they use it daily to blow those dog whistles as hard as they can.
Steve Sailor (Los Angeles)
E.g., NYT columnist Charles Blow's oped denouncing anybody who dares mention Jussie Smollett used nine versions of word "race" - e.g., race, racial, racist - and zero versions of "population." Only geneticists use "population" as euphemism for "race.
Steve (Mi)
I didn’t realize a hate crime was trivial! Thanks for enlightening me.
Pottree (Joshua Tree)
either the Smollett affair is a publicity stunt or it is a crime. who knows? but either way, the juice that runs the op is racism and that's what's being traded on. disgusting either way.
jrj1952 (KY)
So it is OK to hoax if you are woke ?? Crime is not always a crime ? We can mitigate almost anything if we try hard enough. IMHO this author is is peddling nonsense..........
areader (us)
How is it possible to call a modern lynching a trivial crime and entertainment story?
Bob israel (Rockaway, NY)
Just exactly what was Smollett trying to to by claiming that he was attacked for being black and gay by two men wearing MAGA hats? Since all the details were invented, why the MAGA hats? If you can't figure that one out , I don't know how you are able to read this . Obviously Smollett was attempting to lay blame for racism and anti-gay bias on Trump supporters and therefore on Trump. Who else wears MAGA hats? By doing so, he would advance the narrative of evil Trump supporters and gain great traction among the many people seriously infected by TDS. He betrayed every black or gay person who was ever persecuted for being himself, he gave false witness against Trump and Trump supporters and still , because he somehow got Michelle 0bama's chief of staff to intervene , is walking away from prosecution.Where did he get the "juice" with such a powerful person to buy himself a "get out of jail free" card ?
charliehorse (Portland Or)
It has been an interesting point for conversations with my friends as to the base reason all of the Hollywood and Washington DC "important people" of mixed race always ID as BLACK at every opportunity. If being black is so filled with negatives, why do the all chose black as the race they want to be associated with when they are just as much WHITE as black. Smollett, Booker, Harris...all ID as black. It's must be the race card opportunity, just as you see Smollett playing it today...the "victim"...... always the victim. Rich, Connected, and Gay, but black.....and therefore the "victim".
Bill (Terrace, BC)
For people who want to pretend that African Americans aren't routinely oppressed in America, Jussie Smollett's hoax is a dream come true.
Wilmington Ed (Wilmington NC/Vermilion OH)
Please folks. Smollett lied. Stop with all of the ‘if’. A check and video cam evidence is convincing beyond reasonable doubt. Oh, and the admission of the idiotic henchmen. Now, let all the discussion on how important this case is in the great scheme of things continue, but Smollett set it in motion for banal reasons. No excuses. Charles Blow, as others have said, is one I normally respect. This is one of the times he has gone off the rails. Done with it. We have better things to worry about.
Larry (Where ever)
Pay no attention to that Fake Hate Crime, look over HERE at the (fake) collusion!
zighi (Sonoma, CA)
We have missed you!!!
Andrew Larson (Berwyn, IL)
There are so many angles and ramifications of the Smollett story, which no doubt will inspire endless media. One antecedent is helpful, the Tawana Brawley / Al Sharpton debacle. Sharpton's career somehow survived that, which is a feat Smollett might emulate. What I think is more common is false reports from whites, basically "black guys stole my car / killed my wife / impregnated me, usw" aka the adult equivalent for "my dog ate my homework". In the past, such accusations often went unquestioned, and frequently inspired lynchings. Surviving a scandal in contemporary America also has some race-based commonality with gun ownership. It's a bit harder to survive open-carry as a black man. We'll see if the rules of scandal management have evolved any further.
Cold Eye (Kenwood CA)
Just as the black jury nullified the case against OJ as a reaction to perceived injustice, the Chicago DA refused to prosecute Smollet for the LaQuan McDonald episode.
Papadog (Montgomery, AL)
Not near as many resources were diverted to this as was the witch hunt against Trump!
Asher (Brooklyn)
Who should be embarrassed? Smollett for making up a story from whole cloth. The prosecutor for dropping the charges saying there was not enough evidence even though there is a check from Smollett to the two brothers he hired to beat him up. And after reading this article, Charles Blow should be embarrassed as well.
Ed (Chicago)
Huh? Over 20 Chicago detectives were assigned on this case before they realized this was bogus. It wasn't a coincidence that no Chicago politician chimed in originally. They all knew it was bogus. This resource could have been used to solve real crimes. At the risk of being trite, this is like the old fable "the boy who cried wolf". The next time a real racist crime happens, people may roll their eyes and think it is bogus. Mr Blow is as ridiculous and Mr Trump here.
C. Taylor (Los Angeles)
To my mind, the most important word in Blow's piece is "If," occurring 7 times. Yet of the current 15 NYT Picks, only 4 contain any "If." Is this perhaps the broadest ill our country faces? The failure to "if," to withhold judgment? Hostile camps that point fingers and presume guilt before innocence? Where did the mental self-restraint of "if" go? This is what the early-socialized, sustained, and venemous us vs. themism we see unleashed (most dangerously by our Indicter-in-Chief) has come to. The Smollett incident has been rushed to on all sides but, fittingly, nowhere with more potential for harm than from the White House, a place where "white" could stand for innocence but instead now stands for one race above others. Where has innocent-until-proven-guilty gone? In the Smollett case, so far there's only charge and countercharge, claim and counter-claim. No trial, no conviction. Yet commenters by an overwhelming majority are convinced they know what happened, what the truth is. We are lynching our very democracy with vilification, ugly pointed fingers: when has any President ever used his finger, literally, to point his flock toward so many objects of his hatred? In the 1989 Central Park jogger case, Trump, in his kneejerk, self-anointed call for execution, said "I want to hate..."; when DNA and confession exonerated all five false convictions in 2002, he called for (re)conviction and still did in 2016. His disregard for actual justice damns us all.
rocket (central florida)
Smolletts actions are as full of hypocrisy as this article. Mt Blow if this was a conservative you would be seething with hatred and contempt. This was an attempt to make real the false narrative the left has of Trump and his supporters. I will no longer hear the claim of white privilege and assign it any value. Privilege isnt based on color, with this and the recent admission scandal it should be clear that is based on money and influence. Tell me charles... name a liberal who was recently held accountable for their bad behavior.. ONE... Last I checked the racist and sexual predator in virginia were still in office, Samantha B still has her show and Jessie smollett isnt in jail.. Stop being a hypocrite and hold your people accountable..
GG (New York)
A conservative might say, You see, this is what liberals are like. And a liberal might see this as a victimless crime. But a moderate such as myself sees something different. I see a young man who acted thoughtlessly out of his self-aggrandizement, making it harder for those who suffer real hate crimes -- and there are, like rape victims, no doubt many out there who do not report them -- to be believed. In any event, this is not a case of nothing to see here, folks. -- thegamesmenplay.com
sec (CT)
Contrary to common opinion I am OK with the outcome of the Jussie Smollett case. For once a rich black man can purchase the same justice that a rich white man can. Perhaps we should just call it progress and get on with it, unless we seriously want to discuss fixing our judicial system to be truly fair. Unfortunately I doubt that will ever happen. So Jussie, enjoy your privilege and know you've broken one more barrier to race in this country. Cheers!
JMR (Newark)
And the Smollett story at the beginning was precisely the sort of story you, Mr Blow, and the Left, love, which is why you fell for it. I would suggest you check yourself and your colleagues check themselves as well, so that none of us falls for silly stories that merely reinforce our own biases. Chalk this one up as a complete failure of the Left's reason, logic, and critical thinking capability. And learn from it. Meanwhile, reasonable people, on the Right and Left, will be willing to hear about racism when it actually happens.
suejax (ny,ny)
Charles, you missed the boat on this one.
Theodore Barnes (Los Angeles)
You should be embarrassed Mr Blow, for this openly partisan attempt to encourage everyone to ignore a dangerous and destructive crime against the entire community. Either the truth matters, Mr Blow, or it doesn't. You don't get to claim that it's not important if it fits your narrative.
TDHawkes (Eugene, Oregon)
Yep.
Dan (Laguna Hills)
Enough already. The best way to deal with Smollett's idiocy is to ignore him--Completely.
Never Trumpe (New Jersey)
You concede what Smollett did was wrong,but say it was of “little consequence” other than to local police. Little consequence? You might recall that major Democratic candidates for president called it a “modern day lynching” and offered it as proof that virulent racism is alive and well in America. Doesn’t strike me as being of “little consequence” beyond Chicago. Jail time is not needed. But at least he should acknowledge what he said was a lie. Full restitution to the city would also seem reasonable.
mcamp (nyc)
Libs cannot find outrage that this is being covered by the national media at length because there are countless tales of similar sensational yet "not worthy of national media attention" on the other side if the aisle that garner national attention where the same rationale would apply...not a truly noteworthy matter...but when was the last time that criteria was adhered to by the national media and the throng of twitteratti.
James (Houston)
One of the more minimizing and tone-deaf opinion pieces you'll read on this story... >>"America’s obsession with a trivial crime" >>"It is interesting Hollywood drama, but meaningless in the grand scheme of things." >>"None of this is of any real consequence beyond the local authorities and Smollett himself." No, Mr. Blow... this wasn't a "trivial" or "meaningless" case of someone lying to the police. This was a celebrity using his status to condemn and disgrace an entire race and political party. When he went on GMA and accused white people and conservatives of this racist, homophobic attack, it was no longer "trivial" or "meaningless". When he incited presidential candidates to refer to his hoax as a "modern day lynching" it ceased to be "trivial" and "meaningless". When every media source across the globe was reporting on this, his "little lie" transcended the local authorities. And the consequences are, even more racial tension...
Neil Dunford (Oregon Native)
"If true," Smollett sought to take advantage of hate and fear while throwing sand in the eyes of the countless people, of all colors, who have devoted their lives to help disenfranchised populations get the keys to success in this country--the type of success he has had. It's just pathetic all around. So much talent and potential used in such a destructive and divisive manner.
mnemos (CT)
I think the author still doesn't quite understand. Jussie Smollett pulled a stunt. He believed the stunt was realistic - it could happen. The author believes it is tragic that such a thing is believable, because he thinks it could happen. A bunch of celebrities and politicians reacted to it, because they thought it could happen. Many commentators here agree. But it makes no sense at all. Here is an actor from a show that nobody outside the city cares about, but he thought folks from outside the city might come into his neighborhood looking for him, to see if he might be walking in Chicago's bitter cold in the middle of the night, and brought a noose and a bottle of bleach just in case he was. It just doesn't make any sense, not only because of the ridiculous details about Chicago's bitter cold, but because MAGA hat wearing folks don't care about Jussie Smollett at all. If that's something you care about, fine, but I don't know anybody who does - not in that demographic. Which is really the heart of what so many people don't get about this moment in time - it's not about you or your feelings. And people get tired of worrying about your feelings. Folks are so wrapped up in themselves they can't see the obvious.
Steve Singer (Chicago)
Who should be embarrassed? Smollett obviously isn’t. Nor is the Cook County D.A., evidently. Crying “wolf!”, yelling “fire!” in a crowded theater, is what he did. And for what? What? A bigger paycheck? More screen time (by raising his “name-recognition profile”)? I vaguely recall reading both somewhere. I watched a bit of “Empire”; not a lot. It wasn’t compelling, never grabbed-&-held me; contrived, if anything. Struck me as a kind of “Dallas” clone. But now, now I couldn’t care less about it one way or another. Good job, Jussie!
Mel (Ford)
As a conservative we are constantly demonized by the MSM and the virtuous liberals. Not all liberals but definitely the Hollywood liberals. There is just as much hate on the left and it is acceptable because it is directed towards conservatives. You want to know why conservatives are obsessed with this story? It’s because people were so eager to believe it. Another high profile story to justify your hatred of conservatives. Yes Smollett brought this on himself yet people still found ways to blame Trump.
Aljin (D.C)
First, race relations have not been ripped to shreds in the Trump era because race relations were, are, and always have been the bedrock of political games in the recycled acrimonious pugilism of Washington. Black, brown, white, foreign, natural origin, religion, sexual orientation, and any other class/race/gender identification have always been pitted against each other and philosophies surrounding each have been weaponized for political gain by both parties and "they" both should be embarrassed. Second, Conservatives are no more enamored by this case than any liberal network that has been obsessed with any racial/malfeasance oriented incident that they can use to get ratings and sway the public. Third, the real issue here is "us"!!!! We have allowed ourselves to be dragged deep into the sunken place of political punditry, celebrity antics, ideological paralysis, patented elitism, white liberal/conservative fragility, political fodder, and media manipulation. We should be concerned about our daily lives and what really matters to us. Our families, our communities, our traditions, our ability to love, and our continuing capacity to grow. Not vomiting vitriol over a case that has only continued the status quo and illustrated that money, prestige, and influence can get you out of precarious situations, even if you created those situations yourself. The only thing imaginary here is our belief that we were ever near the brink of a society that had turned the corner on race.
Common Sense (NYC)
To Mr Blow: This was not a case of an average guy falsely reporting a crime. Like you, I believe he indeed did this. But he's not an average guy. He's a high profile black celebrity who sought to manipulate the police, the media and all of us - and take advantage of the volitile and intense BLM anti-MAGA racial sentiment - all to increase his paycheck. While there is a special place in hell for those who perpetuate racial hatred, there is also a special place for those who manipulate the sympathy and good will of all of us, who are trying to fix and heal race relations, for their own personal gain.
SPK (Chicago)
I usually agree with Charles Blow, but I see this case quite differently. The concern of many in Chicago, liberal and conservative, is the behavior of Cook County criminal justice system. A seemingly solid case was dismissed quickly and with no attempt to secure an admission of guilt from Smollett. The prosecuting attorney, Joseph Magats, stated publicly he believed Smollett to be guilty. There is widespread feeling that the decision to drop the case does not make sense and there is indeed a lack of justice within the Cook County criminal justice system.
Lois Ann Cipriano (New York, NY)
Jussie Smollett’s “crime” is one against the culture. NOT a question of LEGALITY; but rather of ETHICAL RESPONSIBILITY that comes with celebrity. A singular event can seep into cultural consciousness like smoke under a door, suffocating us, poisoning us with its inherent toxins. Charles argues that, in this instance, responsibility for compounding racist perceptions lies with the media for their exploitation of the “hoax angle.” Media is certainly not exempt. And conservatives have milked this event with racist vitriol … subtle and overt. But if Smollett did lie, the “hoax angle” has meaning. DELIBERATE ABUSE OF RACIST PERCEPTIONS fans the fires of racial divisiveness rampant in our culture. THAT’S the crime here. While it happens routinely in the White House and with far greater consequence, we do ourselves AND Jussie a disservice if we fail to recognize that it is also at the core of this event.
Elizabeth Miller (Kingston, NY)
That our President is calling for federal law enforcement to investigate the incident is an abomination. Under what possible theory does federal law enforcement have jurisdiction to investigate this incident? Trump is helping to drive the story in the media. He does not want it to go away.
Jacquie (Iowa)
"But in this case, Smollett, a black man, was the one with the wealth and the power. Prosecutors cut him a break that I don’t think they would have cut for the poor and the powerless." Wealth and power, no matter the color, is what matters to our justice system. Money buys freedom.
Sam (MD)
There's nothing trivial about a high profile person faking a hate crime. No one stands to profit from minimizing and trivializing what Smollett did.
JimG (Montreal)
The main thing is that regardless of the arguments of how pervasive the racist crimes are, this one is particularly glaring because it received very high profile coverage. What you can't ignore is that this person faked a hate crime either for personal gain (get better pay) or for unknown ideological reasons (to smear conservatives). Whatever his reasoning is, many democrats and liberals are reacting with horror as they should. It is bad enough that some hate crimes do exist that anyone trying to gain from faking one should be called out. Society must create a deterrent so that anyone else thinking of profiting or gain ideological points in anyway by faking hate crimes should be seen to be punished appropriately. This is no longer about rehabilitation, the consequences of people believing in hate crimes in the past has resulted in mass demonstrations or riots and retaliatory beatings. It could easily have fed the ANTIFA or BLM riots that we've seen too many times. We are lucky that the citizens of Chicago were clearly much smarter than the media and harboured some skepticism at this story and did not react violently. The ineptitude of the hoax is noteworthy. If Smollett was more sophisticated in his hoax and better preparations with better timing, if his plane was not delayed, if other people (caucasians) were nearby, he might have gotten away with it. Smollett could have built an entire career out of this hoax. That's why I'm angry at this.
lgg (ucity)
If? Trying to defend Smollett just revs up the other side. This story made no sense from the beginning, but former prosecutors(and present Presidential candidates) who have demonstrated more than a modicum of common sense in the past played out their own version of "both sides." Just because he helps out with Jesse Jackson doesn't mean that Smollett shouldn't be left by the curbside. Just ask Al Franken.
Yashmak (Stockton, CA)
Mr. Blow, you have it all wrong. Conservatives understand racism (and thus racists) are quite real, given (as just one example of many that are readily available) the multitude of recent cases of universities granting preferential treatment to certain individuals on the basis of ethnicity over those of other ethnicities. Smollett has the misfortune (self-created) of having made his bigotry blatant, and so obvious that only the deluded fail to recognize it. The obsession is that if such blatant bigotry cannot be challenged, because of connections, or perhaps because of identity preferences, it's that even obvious bigotry cannot be prosecuted. . . if it's against people it's been deemed to be ok to display bigotry towards. THAT'S the reason for the obsession.
Kimberly Brook (NJ)
Think of the outrage if the situation was reversed.
holmes (nyc)
Most of this is true. The point not to overlook is Smollett is a known actor on a known tv show. He had privilege, and used it to his own consequence. What a selfish, cavalier way to live. He used the media thinking he was smarter than everyone. As quickly as he was believed, when any of those same crimes happen to someone else, the victims will second guessed.
Matt (California)
Kamala Harris, a top candidate for presidential office, called Jussie Smollett’s situation “a modern day lynching” before we had heard anything other than his incredibly overwrought story. You are calling this case trivial now — if it was true would it have been trivial? Or would it have been emblematic of our times? How low we have fallen as a nation? There is such comedy in watching the punditry try to spin away from a reality that does not conform to their narrative. Smollett’s case has not been blown up because he lied — a counter narrative summoned from the dregs of the news heap. It was plastered across our screens before anyone knew he was lying. There are thinkpieces that show that time capsule of thought. And there is the hereafter, where we now have a mainstream example of how victim culture has inverted the old hierarchies to such a degree that this pathetic man believed the best way to help himself was to become America’s Most Victim. Let’s not pretend that victimhood has not run amok, that this is some one off. No, we have Chelsea Clinton being told she’s responsible for mass murder. We have women lumping Joe Biden’s behavior we all witnessed for years with nary a peep into the MeToo conversation. We are adrift as a nation. We have no overarching narrative upon which we can agree. That can bond us rather than divide us. Mr. Smollett has demonstrated that skepticism of victim narratives may be necessary. We may once return to innocent till proven guilty.
W. Freen (New York City)
So glad Trump is busying himself with affairs of state. You know, like being a president.
Bob G. (San Francisco)
The truth matters. According to the substantial evidence we've heard so far, Jussie Smollett lied about being attacked. It's important to call a lie a lie, otherwise we're no better than the Republicans who bray about "alternate facts." Mr. Blow, you do a great disservice to the those who have actually been attacked by conflating Jussie Smollett with them. Jussie Smollett is a liar who didn't care about them or anyone except himself when he made his false claims. He may not be embarrassed, but I'm embarrassed for him.
Rita Harris (NYC)
The nonsense spouted by the Mayor and Police Chief in this case is horrific. We have 2 Nigerian brothers who admit to committing the assault, coupled with their flip-flop on if the purpose stated purpose on the check was correct or incorrect. Its time to apply common sense to this mess. If for some reason, one harbors some hate related feelings, I can get together with a friend or relative, get a check from that hated individual, and then when we are caught allege we were paid to do so. Its an instant 'get out of jail free/no liability for our actions' card. The next question to require common sense, would be if the 16 counts would result in little or no jail time, which DA's office would prosecute a case where the witnesses/perpetrators keep changing their stories or the result would be little or no jail time? I would ask if someone spat on the side walk would he/she anticipate that there should be a trial or that POTUS, the 'lying' FBI, Chicago Mayor, etc., might weigh in. Anybody would say that scenario is insane ranking with Kafka. In conclusion, every last one of the geniuses who have slammed Smollett have now created a climate wherein anyone who might be attacked, raped, etc., will hesitate and may not step forward. The geniuses have established that in the future, crime statistics will diminish because victims will shut up. Sounds like MAGA to me. [Falsely claim statistics have diminished thanks to your intervention.]
Nick (NYC)
The only people that should be embarrassed are the ones tsk tsking about how everyone apparently should have known better. They're acting like anyone who took the allegation seriously - and this includes the police who investigated it - is a total rube. Well excuse us for condemning a racist attack as a bad thing! It's called being a decent person. People in the media and public eye were reacting to the publicly available information that they had. We got played but we have nothing to be embarrassed about; Smollett was exposed as a con and now everyone hates his guts precisely because he made liars out of people who were acting decently and in good faith. (The fact that he's getting away with this hoax is a scandal unto itself. ) Let's say that I tell you my grandparent died last night. You offer me your condolences, as any decent person would. But then later I say, "Aha! You should have waited for all the facts - I was lying about it all along!" Now, did you get played? Or was I being a total jerk? Which one of us should be embarrassed? I think you can draw the correct conclusion here.
Kip (Scottsdale, Arizona)
Conservatives can caterwaul all they want, but the proof is they love it: it gives them the chance to be victims, which is the only thing conservatives really live for. As an added bonus it draws attention from synagogue, church and mosque massacres committed by their fellow travelers. Conservatives should be thanking Jussie Smollett for handing that to them.
LaPine (Pacific Northwest)
Feigning a racial homophobic hate crime because one wanted a higher paycheck and wanted to draw attention to himself should carry the same penalty as the hate crime! What was Jussie Smollett thinking? He wasn't. He needs mental evaluation and needed the book thrown at him. Instead, he performs maybe 16 hours of Community Service and forfeits his bail, as a plea agreement? Why was the DA so eager to sweep this under the rug? Ironically, it now has more attention than it deserved. Treat him like any other fraud. I hope this mockery is his last acting gig. This kind of fake "crime" undermines the real survivors of the real crimes against them. They ought to be the ones enraged.
Constance Underfoot (Seymour, CT)
Smollett was match away from lighting a race war in a city that's given enough blood. How many people may have died because of him Chuck? He didn't just make a claim of a false attack, he elevated it to intentionally divide the nation to highest level for his own benefit. A guilty plea was mandatory. Instead, he's still crowing he's innocent, he's still claiming the police are mistreating him because he's gay & black, his false claim hurts all others with legitimate grievances. Smollett's attackers weren't just imaginary, they were outright premeditated lies. They were for his own benefit, and certainly not "for the cause." Chuck if you need Smollett's lies to justify racism anywhere, you have a bigger problem than racism. Anyone defending Smollett should be embarrassed.
Arundo Donax (Seattle)
The problem is, the "Hate Crime Hoaxer" is a real person. At the moment his name is Jussie Smollett, but someone else will be along shortly.
John Smithson (California)
That's just silly, Charles Blow. People are upset that Kim Foxx in Chicago gave Jussie Smollett a complete pass and that he now claims innocence. And as a legal matter, he is innocent. All charges against him were denied by him and then dropped. Nobody does that in a case like this. Sure, a plea bargain might have been appropriate where the punishment ended up being the same. But there was no bargain made for his plea. He never accepted any guilt. He never accepted any punishment. He walked a free and innocent man. Why did he get the free pass? Did race have anything to do with it? Yes. Did the fact that he is gay have anything to do with it? Yes. Did his wealth and popularity have anything to do with it? Yes. No one I have heard is making this case into one of grave import. It's a petty one. But Jussie Smollett got what he wanted from his hoax, even after it was exposed. And in the name of social justice and racial justice -- the "intersection" of being gay and black -- real justice was denied. That's a disgrace.
John J. (Orlean, Virginia)
My wife and I - who both lean liberal - thought this story bogus from the get go for many reasons. First, we had no idea who Smollett was and suspected most Trump supporters didn't either. I think it unlikely that local Klan meetings would break up early so members could get home in time to watch "Empire". Secondly, what are the chances of racists with a noose roaming the below zero streets of Chicago at two o'clock in the morning happening upon a supposedly bundled up Smollett and immediately recognizing him as a black and gay man? Mr. Blow may not unsurprisingly try to trivialize this incident but Mr. Smollett's "stupidity" has only worsened racial animus in this country. The true "embarrassment" is Mr. Blow's attempt to argue otherwise.
CapitalistRoader (Denver, CO)
With the state charges dropped, no doubt the Chicago Police Dept. will leave no stone unturned in their quest to “bring the real perpetrators to justice” as the Smollett family requested. Those hateful, racist, MAGA-hatted People of Pinkish-Beige Color are still on the run, folks. Let’s be careful out there.
Thomas Murray (NYC)
Having elected trump ('sort of'), I can't see how anyone among the U.S. electorate -- regardless the election lever pulled -- can be 'bothered' to be embarrassed of, by, for or about "Jussie Whomever" … or of, by, for or about anything other than the 'election' of an ignorant, incompetent, childish, racist and misogynist 'man' to 'serve' as 'our' president.
Peter P. Bernard (Detroit)
Mr. Blow, your argument as to wherein lies the embarrassment was good but you just can’t spin this. Blacks and Gays lost this one to Trump. Sometimes it’s wise to acknowledge a loss and wait for the next fight—rest assured, it’s just around the corner. Smollett’s greed and selfishness delivered a body blow and we just need to acknowledge it. There is nothing good to be gleaned from a dumb trick. As Freud said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”
Shanalat (Houston)
I fully understand the term “white supremacist” and all it’s implications. But, to be fair, shouldn’t there be an opposite term regarding dastardly deeds of violence and stupidity committed by people of color? How about “black (or brown) nadirist”. Just askin’
Catt (Bee)
The damage was intended to be done to Chicago, conservatives, and whites. When Jesse's staged hoax blew up in his face the credibility of these kinds of stories takes a blow. And the more the black community tries to rally around him, the more damage will continue. If the black community does not soundly and concretely condemn this liar, they will have to suffer the consequences.
Milque Toast (Beauport Gloucester)
The national Embarrassment in Chief has spoken!
Dave (Berlin)
CB - as an avid reader of yours I am pretty disappointed with the bias you exhibit here. Stung (it appears) that a black man got caught messing with justice as often the white and powerful get away with, you fail to realize that Jussie didn’t take advantage of a lull in the traffic but he betrayed the values you so often call for in your articles. Moreover, he dealt a serious (almost mortal) blow to other black men who do have legitimate crimes to report. I don’t know what is more pathetic, that Jussie tried to claim leadership in the *movement* in his cringe worthy speech, or that you didnt rip into what he just did to the *movement* - which should bounce his privileged no good tushie from it forever.
Mike Roddy (Alameda, Ca)
Trump and his racist supporters are not just bringing shame to our country. They are embarrassing the human race. The President can't go more than a day or two without uttering an offhand racist comment, and his crowds cheer him on. I'm more disturbed now than during the Civil Rights era, when we watched Southern sheriffs attack unarmed black protestors with billy clubs. At least then we knew who the enemy was, and, especially after the bombings of black churches, we considered cruel racists to be outliers. We thought we were better than that on the coasts. Now, the President draws big applause lines in any state with his dog whistles to Republican or Big Box church gatherings. I don't care much about Donald- he could implode into a gooey mass of bad food, worse hair, and mental breakdown at any time. It's his effect on millions of us, in every state, that scares me. The only way we stop him is by Republican defections, including expressions of remorse. Oops- ain't gonna happen.
Carol (Chicago)
Thank you for writing a rational piece about a very sad situation.
Babel (new Jersey)
"if Smollett did what he is accused of having done, it was not only wrong, but also stupid." IF? STUPID? What Smollett did was remove policemen from an area where they could have been pursuing real criminals. He did it for the most selfish of reason to enhance his career. Offering a lame excuse for this man should be beneath the dignity of anyone.
Dave C (Houston)
Progressives have been screaming about an epidemic of hate crime. Smollett couldn't find any real haters, so he created some out of thin air. And never mind the truth that the vast majority of hate crime reported in the US is against Jews.
Wherever Hugo (There, UR)
I feel sorry for Mr. Blow. Having to go through so many contortions, use so much pretzel logic to tie a blatant hoax to a more serious problem that once existed back during the Civil Rights Era. It would be far better improvement to Mr. Blow's mental health if he treated the Jussie Smolett Incident as just that.....an incident.....independent and un-related to all the racists that Mr. Blow sees lurking in the shadows. Mr. Smolette filed a false report. Period. Let the Justice System handle it as just that.........stop bringing in all the baggage from Slave Days and Jim Crow and Racist White Supremist Rednecks and Trump. Mr. Smolette filed a false report and caused the Chicago PD to waste time, money, and resources tracking it down simply because Mr. Smolette is a priveledged celebrity. Civil Rights Era spent a biblical 40 years in the Wilderness of quotas, entitlements, special consideration....and it was necessary.....but now we are ALL going over that mountain that MLK told us about.....you cant stay behind. And as a consequence........American Society has created that "level playing field" that we desired......along with the freedoms comes the RESPONSIBILITY to respect the law and behave as a citizen. Smolette successfully PLAYED every single one of you that refuse to move into the 21st Cenutry, all y'all feeling safe and secure inside the Old Days of Civil Rights Activism. RESIST. haha.
Jake (The Hinterlands)
Mr. Blow, You don’t advance the needle in America’s race relations by giving cover to an individual who was clearly using a hoax of a racial attack for selfish reasons. Your op-ed wasn’t doing the right thing.
lbswink (Phoenix, az)
what Mr. Blow said. Period.
thebigmancat (New York, NY)
African American. Gay. Half Jewish. He can be Trumps Willie Horton.
Jake (New York)
Oh please. Smollett was “pumped up” by the media, alright — the liberal media. They jumped on that train so fast without stopping to check. Charles Blow trying to blame conservatives for Smollett is so... Charles Blow.
TC (Boston)
There was a financial penalty, in that Smollett agreed to forfeit the $10,000 he had put up front as part of his $100,000 bail. I wonder if part of the reason that the DA's office dropped the charges was that they felt that all the resources that are sucked up when prosecuting a crime by a celebrity are better deployed elsewhere.
August Becker (Washington DC)
Sorry Mr. Blow, you've lost me on this one. I am white, 86 years old, I taught school in New York City for eight years before I found my way out of the swamp of petty theft and muggings that city was the 1960's and 70's. I was mugged five times, by black teenagers. On one occasion I was hit in the forehead with a bottle-- 17 stitches and a fractured face, Forever, I'll hear the words:" let's get baldy with the glasses." On return to NYC in 1980's, a black lady pushed in front of me at the cashier of at a store on upper Broadway. I said, "Sorry, ma'am, but I was here first. She turned and slapped me across the face --damned hard--backed up and started shouting "Don't hit me don't hit me." All in the store stopped dead and stared at me. Had the police been called, I would have been falsely arrested, I had no choice but to abandon my merchandise and retreat. You don't get over these things after the physical pain subsides. Yet, all my life I have had close, loving black friends, and will always be deeply hurt when any person, black or white is treated with indignity, hurt. But I also know that white people are hurt, physically and mentally, by bad black people, just as black people are deliberately hurt by bad whites. It does no good to pretend that blacks are the only victims of hate crimes. Smollett's case is important, maybe just because it isn't. It is too packed full of plot, fantasy, metaphor and meaning to be ignored. Who will make the movie?
Rose (San Francisco)
And so...welcome and come on in for another taste of America re-structured. Jussie Smollett just another supporting cast member reflecting the reigning vibe in America by dishing up another taste treat episode of the Trump reality show. Thank you Mr. President, showman extraordinaire, for again being the inspirational force which presents us with another day in the life of America, an extravaganza raking in the ratings: "As The Stomach Churns."
Just Saying (New York)
Conservatives like this case because it makes their ideological opponents which includes the media look bad. If the story could not be proven false or was outright correct, progressives would like the story because it would make conservatives look bad.
HMP (MIA)
Joe Magats, the first assistant state attorne initially suggested that it was a question of resources, and that he decided to drop the charges after determining that: “Our goal and our #1 priority is combatting violent crime and the drivers of violence and we look to our resources to do that and I don’t think that Mr. Smollett is a driver of violence or a violent individual.” This story has gotten for more press then it should have in part because of Mr. Smollett's celebrity status. Chicago Police and other investigators should have been out on the streets of Chicago combating the very real crimes of gun violence that night instead of having to spend their time with a possible 'faux hoax" perpetrated by a movie star bent on making a dramatic political statement about racism that night. Smollett could have written an op-ed in a newspaper like the New York or LA Times to get his powerful message across to millions instead of putting the lives of potential victims of real crimes at risk who might have had less police protection and intervention on the streets of the Southside that night.
JimG (Montreal)
@HMP Smollett is who he is. That he chose to create a fake host to highlight his perceived racial grievances is a reflection of him as a person. He does not get a pass for what you believe to be a simple political statement. He didn't just say - there are racists out there waiting to beat up black gay men. He faked one to enhance his stature or pay. This is a person who is paid extremely well, he is famous, connected and he pretends to be part of the downtrodden victims of race. Look at who helped him in his quest for fame. Michelle Obama's chief of Staff reached out to the AG/DA for him. You want to talk about privilege, this is privilege. A nobody who is gay or straight, black or white would not have gotten this treatment. This guy is not only has privilege, he is leveraging his fame privilege to don the mantle of the brave strong race hero who fights back against the violent racism that he invented.
J. Colby (Warwick, RI)
The interest in the apparent duplicity by Smollett is remarkable for its enduring and permeating interest. Why? No one died, and the Smollett case has little importance to law enforcement and municipal officials - it has definite importance to sociologists. Now let's consider the killing of Laquan McDonald, shot by one Chicago police officer 16 times as McDonald walked in the middle of a street. Sixteen times! The police and principal officials were interested in this killing only to the extent that it might have unflatteringly implicated Chicago officials in long-standing police-youth relations. Was there nationwide interest in the meaning of this shooting as part of a pattern of actions directed at Black Youth? not so much. While an ancillary point, one wonders what Laquan McDonald could have done to have been shot say just a dozen times instead of 16 times as he lay in the road dying.
faivel1 (NY)
In my opinion Smollett can really use a therapist. Growing up as a black man in this country can really mess with your brain...rampant racism is everywhere you look. I use to live in Chicago North Shore suburb, which is far cry from Projects, where only black people live. I would imagine Smollett had plenty of fear and really bad dreams when he was a boy, in this environment. I think such justifiable fears can definitely affect you for the rest of your life. The embarrassment of this story should be own by our sick and twisted society, that in a 21st Century is still grappling with such dark issue as Racism. Shame on all of us!
JimG (Montreal)
@faivel1 Smollett is wealthy. Much wealthier than any of us here. He makes about $100,000 an episode. When he got in trouble, Michelle Obama's chief of staff reached out to the AG/DA to help him out. Stop pretending this is just any ordinary black guy struggling to get by. Lots of people of all races and all skin colours struggle every day with life, most people won't make as much in their lifetime that Smollett makes in a year.
Jay Orchard (Miami Beach)
Charles: You have made it quite clear in your frequent columns on Donald Trump that the primary problem with Trump is racism, as opposed to his narcissism, his lying, his despicable character and his overall unfitness to be President. Given your narrow, racially-based take on Trump, I can understand why the media's focus on the Jussie Smollett story would rile you up.
Joe (Chicago)
"If Smollett’s racists were imaginary, then they can argue the racists we all see are imaginary." No. Just....no. His racists were imaginary. The guy who ran down people in Charlottesville was real.
me (US)
@Joe According to FBI records, black on white murders outnumber white on black murders. The guy in Charlottesville was ONE individual, btw.
Kip (Scottsdale, Arizona)
@me The right-winger who shot to death 11 in a Pittsburgh synagogue was "ONE individual, btw" as well. So as Dylan Roof, who murdered nine people in a South Carolina church. He was "ONE individual, btw" too. So was the right-wing cretin who slaughtered 50 peaceful worshippers in New Zealand. That was just "ONE individual, btw." As was the Las Vegas shooter who did so with the help of the NRA/Republican Party's efforts to make sure deranged lunatics can have as many of those weapons as they like. Just ONE individual, btw. Etc., etc., etc., etc.
cmperla (sacramento)
@Joe The Charlottesville driver panicked when his car was attacked and tried to escape the mob. Ms. Heyer died from cardiovascular issues. Violence perpetrated by antifa equaled or exceeded that of the Right that day. Michael Brown neither had his hands up nor said "Don't shoot". And on,and on,and on...the mendacity of the left never ends.
wolfman (Greensboro NC)
Most "so called" hate crimes are hoaxes. Smollett is a good example of the common reported hate crime. A black reports he was attacked by conservative whites. Upon investigation it turned out to be a hoax. The alleged victim wanted attention sympathy or something. A credulous media plays along. When the truth comes out they want to change the subject. There are numerous stories of nooses hung on college campuses that turn about to put up by blacks. Most real hate crimes are committed against Jews or whites.
Andrew (Florida)
Jussie Smollet committed a hate crime. He understood the political climate and created the perfect hate crime to maximize his media coverage. He sensed the kind of content the media was salivating for to confirm their narrative and delivered it. If the Chicago police had found and accused two white men for the crime Jussie would have likely let them go to jail. Some conservatives are obsessing over this for the reasons you state. The more extreme right wing people. But some are obsessing over this because the left's insistence that everyone on the right is a racist. Plenty of Trump voters are not KKK members despite the media and left constantly implying they are. And Jussie wanted fame and fortune and had did much hate for them, that he sought to use his fame to create a fake event to further this false narrative for his own benefit. This year alone we've had this, a hate crime in Michigan where it turned out a trans individual burned down their own house and faked an attack, and a peaceful stare down at the nation's capital that the media pretended was a hate crime against indigenous peoples until it came out that the kids in the MAGA hats were not the instigators and are only responding to adults who got in their faces and spouted racist garbage. Jussie crying wolf about a hate crime should make him an even worse pariah than Donald Trump in the black community. He just set back the cause of every black person who is actually the victim of a racial crime.
RD (New York)
You are, unwittingly, absolutely correct..."Conservatives need this Smollett story to have legs. If Smollett’s racists were imaginary, then they can argue the racists we all see are imaginary." Most of the racism you see and write about is imaginary.
Jon Gordon (Chappaqua, Ny)
If Trump is really worried about miscarriages of justice, he should investigate the Epstein/Acosta plea deal, where multimillionaire Epstein was given a slap on the wrist for sex trafficking with children, and where the complainants were not informed of the deal.
Terry McKenna (Dover, N.J.)
I don't watch conservative media nor read it, so for me, Smollet should be embarrassed. But it is a tiny story. I really do not think about it much at all. Do you?
Gianna Pomata (Baltimore)
The person who should be embarrassed is Mr. Blow. He has written an incredibly disingenuous and twisted article, full of factual errors and distortions. The worst possible kind of journalism, aimed at obfuscating the truth rather than making it clear. The facts are clear, and have been clearly stated by the Chicago Police and the Chicago Mayor, and even by the Public Prosecutors Foxx and Magats, who admitted that Smollett is not innocent of what he has been accused of doing (faking the assault). Mr. Blow would like us to think that what Smollett did (faking a racist assault) is no big deal, and after all, it happened months ago... But what people are angry about is the DROPPING OF THE CHARGES, which happened just a few days ago. And in any case it seems to me that faking a racist assault is in fact an odious crime -- and especially so in a country that is torn apart by interracial hatred. And more especially so when you fan on racial hatred for personal gain of the most paltry kind. A fact, by the way, that Mr. Blow glosses over in his article. It's sad when journalism goes down to the level of defending the indefensible.
Christy (WA)
Unless the Nigerian brothers made it all up, Jussie Smollett doesn't have a leg to stand on. "For the record," as Mr. Blow so rightly points out, "if Smollett did what he is accused of having done, it was not only wrong, but also stupid." Nuff said.
WestHartfordguy (CT)
Trump is a racist, and only his stupidity protects us from harm. “What have Blacks got to lose?” he argued during his campaign. And then he showed us what Blacks —and all Americans — have to lose. The rule of law. Equal treatment under the law. Voting rights. Proportional representation. Affirmative action. Their lives. Smollett’s case really does make it easy for MAGAts and others to discount racism. It was a one-day story that media gave new life each day to show their “fairness,” as Mr. Blow says. When will the media pay attention to the real issues that Smollett’s case raises, and Blow points out? When will they look beyond what Fox fears —those riots in the streets — to the causes that bring people into the streets? How many Kerner Commissions do we need before we understand what’s wrong with our system?
me (US)
@WestHartfordguy Affirmative Action has been in existence for 50 years, and racial discrimination in employment, education, housing, transportation, retail services is ILLEGAL, so what do you think is "wrong with our system"? Specifically, what do you want?
Craig Lucas (Putnam Valley, NY)
Thank goodness for Charles M. Blow, once again providing sanity, balance and much-needed perspective.
Anthony (Western Kansas)
I agree with Mr. Blow. Just like Fox is casting AOC as the Boogey-woman for of the extreme left, it is casting Smollett as an example of fake bigotry in America. This is really a non-story. The Smollett case is stupid, but what is truly horrific is the Trump administration trying to take healthcare away from the poverty-stricken. It is also horrific that the executive branch has cast every non-white immigrant as evil.
Nancy Rockford (Illinois)
This is why conservatives are so desperate to believe Smollett faked it.
gary (austin)
This is such a one-sided piece of propaganda I'm surprised my laptop doesn't flip over. Ignoring the "wailing" of the Left, Charles Bow shifts the blame from Smollett, who perpetuated the hoax and helped raise racial tensions, and instead attempts to blame "conservatives" for being upset the whole thing was a hoax. I guess that makes the Mayor of Chicago and the Chief of Police, as well as Chris Rock, are all, based on Bow's characterization of the reaction, part of this vast Right winged conspiracy. As to the claim that there is too much media attention, let's review the "wailing" of those who wanted to jump on the wagon as soon as Mr. Smollett announced his second hoax: Kamala Harris: Violent attack on ‘Empire’ star is ‘attempted modern day lynching’ Sen. Cory Booker: "The vicious attack on actor Jussie Smollett was an attempted modern-day lynching. I'm glad he's safe." Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: “...praying for Jussie and his family.” Let's get this right: condemning Mr. Smollett does not, repeat not, make one a Right wing conspirator. So, no Mr. Bow, people will not stop "wailing" about this stupid selfish and actor until justice is served.
Amy (Brooklyn)
It's pretty funny for the Times to be trying to downplay the Smollett hoax. It's my guess that the reason Jussie thought he could get away with it is that such hoaxes often do succeed. After all, consider the Steel dossier hoax. But, just consider how far the Times and the MSM pushed the Kavanaugh hearing smear. Even if there is some truth to Ford's accusations, at most it was some teenage horseplay. But the most of the Times readership still hasn't been willing to put that in perspective.
Tara (USA)
Actually Trump never said all Mexicans were rapists. he said they were sending their rapists over HERE. And by gum, they are. 27% of our prison population is hispanic or Latino, and they are in there for everything from rape to murder to kidnapping to whatever. He doesnt hate Muslims, but he banned anyone coming from 7 or 8 Muslim countries that had identifiable terror connections. He Didnt ban Muslims from the 2 dozen or so all Muslim countries that regularly have people come here to visit, study or work.
Bob Baskerville (Sacramento)
Sir, What do you think happened to black Americans after Martin King died and Jesse Jackson took over his leadership? Martin King was a great, great man. Jackson is a conman and failure at leading blacks. Smollett is symbolic of Jackson’s leadership.
Pono (Big Island)
"Everyone is trying to make this case bigger than it is and to mean more than it does." Can we now include you in that group Charles?
Egg (Los Angeles)
Nice to have you back Charles. As you say "Ridiculous." Nothing gets "white america" aka fox and friends more riled up than the once in a decade story of a black man getting away with something. Ridiculous. And Sad. And Inevitable. I still have the capacity to weep.
Tim Dowd (Sicily.)
Your back! The Jussie Smollett initial story got massive attention. CNN was on it non stop. But, even at first, there was skepticism. So, that tempered the typical hysterical “hate Trump” mob in the Media. To conservatives, the story proves not that there are no hate crimes but that the media is now a massive organ of the “victimization movement”. AKA, the Democratic Socialist. Party. Everyone can be a victim except heterosexual white men who create all the victims, the real or imaginary ones.
Bill George (Germany)
Indeed, every minute spent talking about the "Smollett case" is a minute not spent examining the embarrassing activities of an idiot who will soon be claiming a place in history as the greatest president of all time. Let the media talk about Mr Smollett instead of discussing how a pretentious and poorly qualified young man could walk into the White House and claim to be an expert advisor to the President of the United States. Need we go on?
LeeAnn (Tennessee)
The Author is ridiculous! Instead of using the word “racist” he said conservatives. As if conservatives are automatically racist. Conservatives don’t enjoy fake hoaxes. Stereotypes like the author is trying push on his readers is ignorant and is everything that’s wrong with America. This is a prime example of ‘tribal mindset’. You create more hate. You do know black conservatives are tired of it to. Civil War between right and left is coming. I was independent voter for years, but I’m so over the left I’ll never vote democrat again.
areader (us)
"If Jussie Smollett’s racists were imaginary, then conservatives can argue the racists we all see are imaginary." Is Mr. Blow saying that Jussie Smollett’s racists weren't imaginary?
Tim Lynch (Philadelphia, PA)
For the life of me, I fail to understand why this "case" has gotten such widespread attention . Years ago this maybe would have been on the inside pages ,perhaps below the fold in Chicago. Have we become Britain? Obsessed with cheap tabloid journalism? This guy is ,evidently, self abdorbed, egomaniacal, and craving attention. (Sounds like somebody else we know). It was extremely disheartening to see this as the lead story on all the news networks, and in our respectable newspapers. We ,as a country, are pathetic.
JJ Gross (Jeruslem)
Mr. Blow demonstrates his irredeemable prejudice by labeling Jussie Smolllet's actions a minor crime. What Smollett was attempting to do was parlay his unhinged hatred of Donald Trump into a nationwide racist hatefest in the hope of destroying the Trump Presidency. This is no minor matter. As well, he nearly brought Chicago to a state of anarchic riot while costing the city a fortune in police time which deprived its citizens of valuable police protection so that officers could be engaged in a wild goose chase. The fact that a DA who is a political hack with an agenda not unlike that of Mr. Smollett's is an affront to every law-abiding citizen, and an even greater affront to run of the mil criminals who do not receive the special treatment of being allowed to spend 12 hours hanging out with the dubious Jesse Jackson in lie of serious penance.
sharon (blue)
You lost me at The dimwits at “Fox & Friends”went so far as to say the case, if it had been true, had the potential to ignite “race riots in major cities across this country.” So tired of the name calling and the press stirring the pot always. Rather I agree or not with what is being said on either side the meanness childishness and name calling makes me loose any interest in what you have to say. I know its about your opinion and not a report but if you left out words like dimwits I would have more respect for your views
Ro Oreo (Malverne New York)
@sharon Dimwits isn't name calling?
Clark Landrum (Near the swamp.)
I never heard of this guy and hope I never do again. As I get it, he concocted a story about a racist attack that never happened and was able to attract the attention of the president of the United States as well as the New York Times. The success of his story apparently depended on his throwing some racism in the mix. That appears to be the Achilles heel of this country.
Jeff (New York)
You should be ashamed Mr. Blow. Smollett set the civil rights agenda back a few years and exploited the cause or marginal people in the US, in an attempt to benefit himself. He forfeited $10K and agreed to community service. If he was as he says he was —truthful about the attack, he wouldn’t have taken this sweetheart deal that Michelle Obama helped organize for him. I’d think all responsible people would condemn what Smollett did and how he was given a pass that few other African Americans would receive in similar circumstances. Mr. Blow only hurts his own credibility by penning such a op-Ed.
Shirokanedai (NY, NY)
Three quotes from Mr. Blow's column deserve attention. First, he dismisses Smollet's case as "little more than tabloid fodder." Tabloid fodder got Trump elected. Does Mr. Blow think NYT columns are more influential? Second, he apparently doubts that Smollent lied -"if indeed he did [lie]." If Smollent did not lie, the investigation should be ongoing. Racist and homophobic attacks are very serious crimes, but Smollent has stopped that investigation. If Smollent has for some reason decided to allow an actual racist attack to go uninvestigated and unpunished, that should be vigorously condemned. Third, Mr. Blow belittles the "narrative that Smollent damaged race relations" by pointing out that race relations were already bad. Does Mr. Blow believe that further damage is not consequential?
Rob (Northern NJ)
You want to give Smollett a pass because he is black and gay? If you do not hold him to the same standards as you would Trump supporters, you forfeit the moral high ground. This hoax, committed for petty personal gain, has fueled the fires of racial injustice on all sides. Hardly a victimless crime. Right and wrong have no color, Mr. Blow.
Christie (Winston Salem. NC)
I know that I speak for a lot of other Trump supporters when I say that I am so tired of the irresponsible reporting in this country painting us as racist. I have done more for the advancement of civil rights in this country than any person of color I have ever met and I have lived in LA and NYC. Have any of you noticed the number of black people who support Trump? You portray us as racists with these incidents that turn out to not be true then double down saying we deserve it because we bring it on ourselves by our racism which is also a lie. You need to stop this type of reporting, it hurts this country and a lot of people in it. What Jussie Smollett did was not just stupid it was criminal and unethical and set back the advancement of the LBGT community by his selfish and disguisting actions. He owes apologies to the LBGT community, the people of Chicago, the Chicago P.D. and Trump supporters as well for blaming us for his imagined crime. And you need to really understand that no one cares whether or not you like the President, I didn't care much for Obama but I gave him respect as a duly elected President of the US and you need to do the same with Trump.
Ryan (Midwest)
Nice try, Charles. The story has legs because it's a juicy story, simple as that.
J Clark (Toledo Ohio)
Shame on you for supporting this kind of hate. The story was Swiss cheese from the very beginning. Only a fool believed it. And there were many. But they had an agenda. I believe this is a hate crime in reverse. He tried to frame up people because of a hat they wear? That’s ridiculous on so many levels. The prosecutor played favorites. Umm could it be because she was black? Or maybe because she was smitten by this tv star? Or was there money involved they did get to keep 10K. I hope the feds get to the bottom of this injustice. And again shame on you to encourage and coddle this type of hurtful and shameful behavior.
Edwin Cohen (Portland OR)
The Smollett case has everything to do with race, it have nothing to do with race. The sad little man that Jussie Smollett is, could not get enough, money, fame respect... No matter that he rose above his peers it was not enough, because we in America can never have enough. He used his self to leverage up and get more. In Jessies case he was Black Successful and Gay it seem he tried to use this (his privilege) to get more. Seems he was also not too bright. But his driving force didn't have to do with race or smarts it had to do with more. It is a very common human failing and it catches up the High and Mighty and the Low and Groveling. It caught the Junkie and the CEO it caught Jessie and with any luck it will put and end to the Koch Brothers too.
JimG (Montreal)
@Edwin Cohen It also has to do with character. Most people at their core have moral values that would prevent them from doing anything this demented. This guy is just a rotten person and he did something that is so incredibly horrible, any decent liberal should ask why someone like this can claim to be part of their group when all he has shown is extreme selfishness and greed. People who exploit race grievances to enhance their careers should face the consequences of their actions. This is on him. I still can't believe anyone would be so demented to invent this, so some days I think he might very well have mental problems, and I feel some sympathy, but then he steps out and claims he's been vindicated, that he would not be his mother's son, and a whole bunch of drivel, and the anger at hearing him not taking responsibility for this cancels that. The guy needs to grow up and tell the truth.
Louie (CA)
Mr. Blow, what you have written is dead on. I appreciate your describing so clearly the racism implicit in the media's reaction. Thank you.
Greenie (Vermont)
So tell me, if a well known white man or woman with assets accused a couple of black guys of having done this sort of hate crime to them and the police and media went crazy trying to find the culprits only to learn it was a hoax, you’d be fine with the white guy/gal paying 10k and doing a few hours of “community service “? Somehow I think not.....
Kathy Grey (Easthampton, Massachusetts)
Unlike the "AUDS-infected Hatian," the hate crime hoaxes is REAL. Professor and author Wilfred Reilly has documented over four hundred recent cases, "the Yasmin Seweid, Air Force Academy, Eastern Michigan, Wisconsin-Parkside, Kean College, Covington Catholic, and “Hopewell Baptist burning” racial scandals all turned out to be fakes. And, these cases are not isolated outliers," says Reilly.
Beyond (McDermitt NV)
With you 99% of the way Charles. But not this time.
faivel1 (NY)
In my opinion Smollett can really use a therapist. Growing up as a black man in this country can really mess your brain...rampant racism is everywhere you look. I use to live in Chicago North Shore suburb, which is far cry from Projects, where only black people live. I would imagine Smollett had plenty of fear and really bad dreams when he was a boy, in this environment. I think such justifiable fears can definitely affect you for the rest of your life. The embarrassment of this story should be own by our sick and twisted society, that in a 21st Century is still grappling with Racism. Shame on all of us!
Len (Pennsylvania)
There was a huge opportunity cost to Chicago PD in investigating this case because it appeared to hit so many buttons: a despicable hate crime against a black man who happens to be gay. The noose around Smollett's neck was a particularly horrible piece. Detectives and patrol officers spent hundreds of manhours viewing video and tracking down the two brothers, time that could have been spent investigating a crime that really occurred. For Smollett to just get a free pass after a Grand Jury indicted him on 16 counts of False Reporting is not only absurd, it sends the wrong message to anyone else who might be desperate for the limelight as Smollett apparently is. I could understand a plea down from 16 counts to two or three. But to nolle pros all the counts? Unbelievable.
Connie Moore (Atlanta)
Thank you, Charles!
vandalfan (north idaho)
Two mistakes were made. One was charging a "disturbing the peace by false report" misdemeanor as 16 felonies, only to resolve it like every other case of that minor nature, bond forfeiture and dismissal . The second, greater fault was that Jessie thought he was so famous he would be personally recognized by MAGA bigots roaming Chicago at 2am looking specifically for gay men.
Jeffrey Waingrow (Sheffield, MA)
Charles, I get your larger point, and it's well taken. But I think you minimize the import of what Smollett did. It was more than just stupid. It was craven and reckless. Simply put, it was disgusting and inexcusable. That bad people can use this to their vile ends is, I'm afraid, a separate issue.
Steve Fankuchen (Oakland, CA)
Mountains out of molehills to feed an agenda is not an exclusive franchise of the Republicans, as the Biden "story" on the current Home Page demonstrates, the latest iteration of the Democrats' propensity for circular firing squads, a sad phenomenon enabled by this paper and the rest of the allegedly Leftist media.
sheldon (Toronto)
I agree with the author. The media that cares about being accurate should stop pandering to those who don't. I read Breitbart and Townhall. These forums have day after day after day coverage of this story. They keep writing stories on how evil Jussie was. That is the story. Not the piddling stupidity of one man. Those snowflakes who scream Fake News will never read the MSM. It is time for the MSM to stop pandering to them. Pandering to them is like trying to teach a pig to sing. It won't work and it irritates the pig.
MIMA (heartsny)
If we’re going to have a conversation about race and differences, and the strife created, let’s have a conversation how the United States of America can lock children who are not white up in cages and think that is ok. Not only the country gives consent, the country’s leadership, Donald J. Trump, demands and mandates this cruel and inhumane treatment. The Jussie Smollett Case is a big fat nothing compared to the consideration we should be giving children at our border. This is our country? I don’t give a rip about a celebrity who is in the news - I want to know how this country thinks treating kids like animals is permissible and is getting away with it, even to the point of departing kids alone and leaving them parentless? Have we not heard of the Holocaust?
Annoyed reader (mia)
This became the overblown media circus it is because the more liberal outlets all wanted the white supremacist scenario to be true so badly that they could just taste it...especially when he did that interview and started channeling MLK. The people that should be embarrassed are the ones that believed him without question as long as it did in the white devil.
Richard Poore (Illinois)
Sorry, but you could not be more wrong. It is most "normal" Americans who are outraged over this travesty. A states attorney who claims to have recused herself, but did not. A top aide to President Obama calling in favors. An actor who wont shut up even after skating away from the mess... Oh yes it was stupid. Many in the media did indeed trumpet the original attack claims to one and all. We couldn't escape the high drama of the attack by two crazed racist attackers, doubling down by also attacking his sexual orientation, then tripling down with the political angle. Oh yes it was stupid. Even when rational people asked about the idea of the attackers picking a subzero night to wait on the streets, to declare "this is maga country" in Hillary Clinton's hometown, to see Jussie quickly fight off the attackers while still holding on to his sub sandwich... Oh yes it was stupid.
Phyliss Dalmatian (Wichita, Kansas)
Sir, you have expressed my thoughts exactly and eloquently. This entire incident is a pimple on the “ skin “ of Racism, and race relations on Trumps Amerika. It’s like a fun house mirror, distorting reality and bending truth. Mr. Smollett appears to be like many in the “ Entertainment “ field, extreme narcissism and Vanity required, ethics optional. In plain words : A spoiled Brat. Enough about him. I hope this will make all of us more careful about rushing to judgement, and jumping on the bandwagon. ANY bandwagon. Wait for more facts, have some patience.
ThirdWay (Massachusetts)
I seem to remember that after the election the Times began a section where they asked readers to tell the atkmes about post-election hate crimes. Clearly they were leading the witness, They were trying to create a narrative of Trump's election “allowing hate crimes.” Then they didn’t get enough responses, so they quietly folded their tent. So while Trump is a hateful bigot, the Times has also done its best to stoke a racial divide. And you sir are part of that effort. It’s all about the Benjamins.
Joshua Schwartz (Ramat-Gan, Israel)
"Smollett’s greatest offense in this regard was not lying, if indeed he did, but lying about white people who support a racist in the White House." Who pays the bill for the police investigation and all other sundry expenses related to the hoax? The people of Chicago apparently? All the people of Chicago? Are those expenses imaginary? And why is that OK?
Daphne (East Coast)
Is that not all the more reason to condemn creating imaginary racists. But Charles is very familiar with that line. He plays that card so many times himself it is hard to count. This is about a well connected young man and the state of the Democrat party apparatus. Mayoral race going on and all.
Roger H (Washington)
Lie count: Donald Trump 6420, Jussi Smollett 1. Smollett just can’t run with the big dogs.
Mike (Western MA)
I’m an OUT ( 40 years) gay liberal. Jussie is a disturbed individual and is in need of an intervention by family and friends for long term psychiatric help. Jussie is NOT a bad person - he is a sick person. Folks, please don’t be fooled by the good looks, by his fame and money. Jussie does not get a pass— he’s a smooth- talking con man. He had a lot of us fooled. Sigh.
me (US)
@Mike Maybe there's also an issue with people whose entire lives and careers have been in the entertainment industry being a bit divorced from real life? Jussie is not the only one, apparently.
Kagetora (New York)
"Others bemoaned the horrible impact the case would have on other hate crime victims being believed." Not quite accurate. The Trump base actually supports hate crimes. What this does is give them cover. Trump is already using the case to support his narrative, and it makes all his white supremacist followers feel warm and smug in their sense of superiority. People of color did not need this. There are so many daily instances of real hate crimes that you don't need to make one up. What is most interesting about this case is how Trump thinks that the FBI and DOJ are his own personal Gestapo. Someone needs to wake him up as to the limits of his authority.
BD (SD)
So what is being said here? Individuals of color can make up and propagate falsehoods about white racist attacks and cannot be questioned?
Kayla hagle (Las vegas)
Jussie Smollett s attackers wernt imaginary...they were alive, real people.. associates jussie PAID. This is what the attackers claimed not just alleged. Anyway...a bit frustrating to see that comparison made like you did.. feels like bait to read ur opinion when noone is saying that. It's almost like you are trying to stir the pot. Please stop . Thanks for hearing my opinion.
Danny (Cologne, Germany)
What a fatuous article. In the case of Hillary Clinton's e-mails, it wasn't so much the fact that she had her own server. The real story was her attempts to cover it up, and then make light of it; the drip-drip of revelations. The same in this case; since the accused attackers are both black, there was never an element of racism in the original story, so why is Mr Blow trying to make this about racism? He himself is doing damage to the pursuit of racial justice in the US.
Sunny (Virginia)
Mr. Blow - your credibility nosedives when you defend Smollett on the basis of racism being a bigger issue. Let's start where we can make a difference and denounce Smollett for the liar he is.
melhpine (Hamilton, VA)
Mr. Blow: I think you and I would agree that it's wrong to incite racism. Is it now equally wrong to incite anti-racism?
Will (Atlanta)
If supporting President Trump makes you a racist, (because you consider him a racist); then supporting Smollett makes you a racist, (since he’s clearly guilty of racist hate crimes). Sorry if that offends the Snowflakes, but it’s just true.
Jerry D. (Fort Worth, TX)
It's sad to think that a Gay, Black man can lie to the public about being a hate victim of two White people and we do not see more outrage from gays and blacks. He used a noose as a prop! Is slavery a joke? Is it OK to use slavery as a prop? No harm done? Really? Jessie used the pain of actual gay and black victims for self gain. Smollett is a user and instigator of hate and racial divide. When most people people would like to see race relations heal, Jessie creates a hoax to undermine what ever progress has been made. Huge, big mistake and a transgression against society. He should suffer consequences, he is exactly the type of deceitful, racist person we do not need in this country or any other country. And people who stand by his side and spew excuses as to justify why he did it, are indulging in this hate hoax and are just as bad. This is not a left or right issue, liberal or conservative issue, this is simply a character issue. Shame on Charles M. Blow for such a deplorable opinion and shame on the New York Times for publishing it.
Falcon78 (Northern Virginia)
What Mr Blow is attempting is the proverbial "move along people, nothing to see here." Well there is something to get to the bottom of. Mr Blow--who never let's you forget he is black instead of one day letting you know he is an American--doesn't seem to grasp the significance of a staged high profile hate crime. Now, it has blown up even further. Why would the DA--Ms Foxx--use all the political chips she had and cash them in for this two-bit actor? Politics--Democratic politics. It has exposed--as if Chicago needed more exposure--of corruption at the highest levels of the Democratic machine. Thinking, conscious, ethical Americans will NOT forget this travesty.
Cyphertrak (New York)
"Smollett’s greatest offense in this regard was not lying, if indeed he did, but lying about white people who support a racist in the White House." This is a disturbing article. If Smollett had been attacked and the attackers had been accused of a "hate crime" - you would be all over that, Mr. Blow. Hate crimes are serious. It is one of our ways our society attempts to deal with racism or any form of bigotry, seriously. Fraudulent accusations should also be taken seriously. Period. It is not "right wing" for instance, as some claim that to compare Tawana Brawley's fraud to Mr. Smollett's fraud. If it happened in Smollett's case, it's fraud. And fraudulently stating that a hate crime occurred is not funny. It's not "entertainment," Mr. Blow. Make no mistake, the Smollett case has the effect of making a mockery of one of the few ways society has amped up its response to racial hate. And you want to trivialize that? Your article smacks of misplaced bitterness.
Jacob handelsman (Houston)
Funny stuff! A guy who was part of the Times' fake news Russia collusion hoax against Trump for 2+ years complaining that the media are making more out of the Smollet hoax than they should be.
D I Shaw (Maryland)
Jussie Smolett's behavior is, accordingly to all available evidence, indefensible. That he is biracial, gay, and wealthy is irrelevant if the rule of law matters anymore. Charles Blow is the one who should be embarrassed for conflating his feelings about race with the bald facts of a hoax.
marie (marcellus,ny)
I had never heard of Smollett before this incident being reported but was initially suspicious when I read he walked in with a noose around his neck. I would remove the vile, hateful thing immediately! Save it for evidence but remove the disgusting, hurtful, repugnant thing immediately!!!!!
Steve Neighoff (New Orleans, La)
I want to start by saying I read Charles Blow regularly and think he is a thoughtful, caring person. But I do wish that for this column he would replace the word "conservative(s)" with another term; perhaps "racists" and/or "haters" or even "Trump followers". Conservatives per se are no worse than liberals, and I believe Charles is loosing a chance at credibility with conservatives here with that term. I also think that in this current climate, the Smollett scandal is a bigger deal than he thinks. It may not have "potential to ignite race riots in cities across the country", but it was a dangerous and damaging mistake. I live in Louisiana and get my ears burned on this constantly. Jussie was a celebrity of sorts so of course the media will overplay it. Unlike Tawana Brawley, he is an adult and should apologize. Even in that event, Al Sharpton should have done so. Fair or not, it just gives the tens of millions of haters in this country far too much ammunition, even if in their own minds.
Paul (SF Ca)
Dear Sir, I’m sorry but I respectfully disagree and I think you are missing the point of the anger. It’s was not just another assault in Chicago which regrettably is hardly news at all. It was a reported hate crime of a famous, gay, black man. The hate crime was abhorrent on every level - the MAGA hat, the bleach, the noose, the beating, the language purportedly used and the previous letter. So it’s only natural that the entire country was shocked and embarrassed and ashamed and everyone with a conscious felt bad. Then the story starts to unravel. Your column suggests we should all just look away and move on. But that means we continue to live in our respective camps, and we never search for the truth in ourselves because we are hardwired at this point. In fact, I was relieved when the story started to unravel. Thank goodness it likely wasn’t true. Why not celebrate the total truth of the story? Come on Mr. Blow, unify us instead around that instead.
ibivi (Toronto)
Does the CPD usually put the vast resources they used to investigate other reports of hate crimes that total $130K? That is pretty astounding given that his story didn't quite ring true right from the beginning. The media response was way out of proportion as well. Far worse things happen in Chicago every day that are not reported in the MSM on a constant loop.
Andrew Grainger (Boston)
Jessie Smollett - the boy who cried wolf. It matters. Have you forgotten what happened when the wolves actually came Charles? "Nothing new under the sun."
Andy (Salt Lake City, Utah)
I wasn't interested in the original story because I don't watch "Empire." The faked hate crime never would have made national news if it happened to be anyone other than Jussie Smollet. I could say the same thing about Bob Kraft's current legal jeopardy. We never would have heard about a police raid on a massage parlor in Florida if some local reporter hadn't noticed Bob Kraft's name on the charges. That's how celebrity works. Smollet of course used his celebrity to elevate the hate crime to national news in the first place. Why should anyone care when his celebrity gives a fake hate crime staying power in the news cycle? That's his own fault. I think the main point about Smollet is he's walking for what would be a life changing conviction for anyone else. That grinds against the public sense of justice. I'm sure everyone on the left will feel the same way if Kraft or Epstein end up walking too. They should be punished as well, each in proportion to the severity of their crimes.
John Malo (Cathedral City, CA)
An avid consumer of the 'news', I kept wondering why this story had such longevity - was he or wasn't he? Did he or didn't he? All this about a minor actor in a forgettable series! Mr. Blow's article puts some of this speculation to rest. Mr. Smollett should sue the pants off Chicago and all involved!
Andre Wasniewski (Toronto)
After looking at the title, before I read the article. I took a wild guess who should be embarrassed and what what is the real problem. I guessed right: Trump should be embarrassed by the action of Jussie, and the real problem is conservative obsession with the fact that Jussie was able to get away with faking the hate crime, lying to police etc.. because his high standing in the victimhood hierarchy, and celebrity status. Jussie has nothing to be ashamed about, he is cool.
EJW (Colorado)
I really have not followed this case much but I do know that Rahm should not be weighing in on whether he did anything against the law or not. Rahm has no credibility whatsoever. Rahm is the biggest liar and cheat that Chicago may have ever had as mayor and they have had some bad ones. Thank God is tenure as mayor is almost over. I only take joy in that I am sure he wanted to be mayor for life and because he is such a low life, that won't happen.
GJ Tryon (Canada)
Mister Smollett (to borrow the Times’ de rigueur honorific unaccountably missing from Mr. Blow’s article) has himself an easy remedy to the media's “obsession” over his case: he can admit to his guilt (already tacitly admitted by way of his bond forfeiture) and apologize to the the people of Chicago, if not to the whole country. At the very least, he can stop fanning the obsession with his impudent accusations of impropriety and arrogant threats of lawsuits against the diligent CPD.
Kurt Mitenbuler (Chicago and Wuhan, Hubei, PRC)
All emotional and legal issues I totally agree with, but the premise is classic nonsequitur. One does not at all times follow the other. Of course conservatives will argue all is imaginary; they do now. But all evidence points to Jussie being, at best, disingenuous and at worst, a self promoting liar. It's a mess.
RR (Riverdale)
There's a sidebar story here that Mr. Blow only touches upon: "...the media...[is] always so desperately insecure about being accused of liberal bias..." First, is this really so? Mr. Blow does not shy away from expressing his own liberal leanings, after all. Second, more power to him! Why should the media be concerned about expressing a liberal bias? Certainly "the dimwits at 'Fox and Friends'" (as Mr. Blow describes them) have no reservations about expressing their own bias. This is so even in the face of distorted facts, dissemination, looking the other way, and flat out lying. Liberals don't do these things because they are "desperately insecure?" about showing liberal bias? I would suggest rather that proper journalists simply aim to be "fair and balanced." (Pun intended.) Yet, they are up against conservatives who, without apology, are always willing to cheat, to punch below the belt. This present Smollett instance is hyped by Trump and the conservative media because they feel they have a legitimate, fair punch to throw. The liberals always pull their punches, even in the face of the many grievances the present administration has brought to this nation. So I ask: Why is this? Should the strategy change?
Olivia (New York, NY)
I usually agree and very much appreciate Mr. Blow’s contributions. But in this case I couldn’t disagree more. In today’s climate in our country a hair brained scheme like this is hardly “trivial!” Thank goodness the press proceeded cautiously at first - so as not to ignite a potential “fire.” That Smollet was let off so easy made me feel disheartened; because it was a disservice to true victims. He comes across to me as smug and showing no contrition! Yes, he should pay the police department - in installments if necessary - just like thousands of kids work to pay off their college loans, or is that not what “celebrities” need to do? As for the legal DA issues I can only say ??????? If Smollet is a victim in any sense it is the same sense that WE ALL are victims of the media which over the past 30 years has elevated celebrity to unearned stature and then created Reality TV to numb everyone’s brain and nurture and elevate ever more people to celebrity based on nothing substantial or redeeming. Mr. Trump is our most famous example of this media quackery. Smollet is the collateral damage of this culture we all have allowed to take over our lives, having been born and raised in it. But he is still responsible for the damage he will have caused for those less fortunate than he. This shouldn’t have happened - but it is hardly “trivial!” It represents the “rot” that is destroying the fabric of our society.
JVG (San Rafael)
Hate crimes are up over the last two years. There have been multiple cases of thwarted and actual right wing terrorism. These stories go completely unmentioned on Fox and right wing media and nearly so on all other media. Real people have lost their lives. Fixating on a hoax where nobody was hurt shows how twisted America really is at this moment in time. Charles Blow, you nailed it.
Darklord (Hoboken)
@J. That was full of fake news. The SPLC which spews out those lies actually belongs at the top of it's own list of "hate groups"
Edward O (Brooklyn, NY)
Mr. Blow. I have been a fan before however I don't think you have cited one fact to back up your claims here. This could start a race 'war' or problem. These is very harmful to minorities and gay people around the world. You don't need to put this in a white universe to see how this was a dangerous crime that could have caused deaths, injuries and abuse to people other than white people.
Darklord (Hoboken)
Not really. Smollet committed a hate crime that smeared a large group of Americans and could have led to retaliatory violence. Smollet then skated on charges by playing his intersectional celebutard privilege card. The whole sorry affair is tremendous miscarriage of Justice. Blow's attempt to spin this is pathetic and wrong.
Jonathan Katz (St. Louis)
So maybe he should not have invented attackers? His faking was designed to incite racial hatred.
Clay (Charlottesville, VA)
The title led my better angels to hope that Mr. Blow was sincerely seeking understanding. Understanding a concern that Smollett's behavior mirrors the dismissal of much of the country implied in Hillary Clinton's "deplorable" and "irredeemable" comments (surely, he thought, it won't be hard to get people to believe that folks wearing MAGA hats would do this—and he was right!). Understanding the concern that elites besotted with identity politics showed troubling but predictable gullibility when initially presented with Smollett's claims. Understanding the concern that an ideology which divides humanity into monolithic groups and then automatically affords higher moral credibility to those of a disaffected group will lead to many similar miscarriages of justice. Understanding concerns about undoing the rule of law, about attenuating constitutional ideals, and about responses to discrimination that simply perpetuate the problem by privileging different groups of people than were privileged before. Mr. Blow, had he wanted to understand conservative concerns, could have reached beyond Fox News to discover all of this substance and engage with it. I would probably still maintain all the concerns cited above, but at least I would have benefitted from a thoughtful challenge to help me understand a perspective different from my own.
HBP (New York, NY)
Here's what is not being said, as much as it should be. I don't know if this happened or if he made this up. Yet, the fact this was so believable in the first place is the problem I don't think we are talking enough about. It was so believable that MAGA-hat wearing guys would perpetuate a hate crime against a black, gay man in a major city in America. After all, facts will show that hate crimes against LGBTQ people are up in America since Trump took office. And we've seen countless videos (and heard about hate crimes) that show discrimination and bigotry in broad daylight across the land. We are living in a time when the President generally focuses on crimes when the accused are people of color or Muslim. We're living in a time when the Vice-President shows his disdain for LGBTQ people, while his wife teaches at a school in which LGBTQ kids or parents are not allowed. So yes, if it were a lie, we should be angry. But I see few on the conservative side getting angry about the rise in bigotry, homophobia, racism in our everyday lives. That's the real crime.
Mark (New York, NY)
@HBP: That is like a white woman falsely accusing a black man of rape, and then saying that the problem is that it's so believable that a black man would do it.
John G (Philadelphia, PA)
@HBP I did not find it believable at any time. Right after hearing about it on the news, I told my wife I thought it might be fake. It just sounded exactly like what someone would think up in this situation, if they were fairly unimaginative to begin with.
Lin (Chicago)
@HBP. This story was not believable from the get go. Not because hate crimes don't happen, but because the specifics conjured up by Smollett were on their face RIDICULOUS. Vile behavior and harmful first of all to actual victims of actual hate crimes. And although a trivial almost childish thing to do in its particulars, the act was a clever way in our times to get vast media attention. Despicable.
magicisnotreal (earth)
I think the conservatives are so happy about this because Mr Smollett's alleged crime relied upon the same kinds of fantasy and manufactured tropes the entire "conservative" movement has always been based upon. He has unintentionally given them a "pass" for their bigotry by making that use of fictional ideas as if they are real seem legit. And in the end what do conservatives seek almost as much as they do power/money? A way to skew reality to make it seem they have been given a pass for whatever they have done in this world by African Americans. Let me suggest that the stunt in question did some harm to the City of Chicago's image. Yes they have a violence problem but they do not have a known violent racism and violence against gay people problem adjoined to political bigotry. Mr Smollett's report created that image which is why the CPD and everyone else was right on top of it when he reported the crime. Chicago does not need any more negative tropes about it. They do enough of that themselves. I think his minor celebrity status played a role there too. I think his celebrity was his eventual undoing as the resources devoted right away got the evidence and solved the "crime". Maybe we should be talking about funding the CPD so that they can be on top of all serious crime right away? Looks like they can be very effective when motivated to devote all resources necessary.
Observer of the Zeitgeist (Middle America)
The worst thing about the Smollett affair is not that he would do such a thing, but that so many people on the left were hoping it was true, and bitterly disappointed when it was not.
Steve Beck (Middlebury, VT)
He is a pretty boy and I wish he would go away. The list of individuals like him grows longer every day.
Diana (Dallas, TX)
My personal thoughts on the case are: 1.) this is an example of celebrity privilege regardless of color and, 2.) let's not forget, there are also the 2 white celebrities who are being ridiculed in the press for the university admissions scandal, also based on their celebrity. Yes, the Smollett case is not as big a deal as the press is making out, and I am quite certain that the right-wingers are using it as race-baiting for their base, but it is, for me, about celebrity privilege and I equate it with the celebrity privilege of Trump who could stand in the middle of Manhattan and shoot someone and no one would blink an eye. But, let's not forget about how the 2 female celebrities of the U. scandal are the face of that scandal even though there are hundreds of others involved.
Garry (Eugene, Oregon)
Economically advantaged Whites can easily afford to tweak the system to their advantage. In turn these “successful” Whites look down upon all those who cannot. And rather than address that inequality, less economically advantaged Whites are manipulated by media and the “Trumps” to scapegoat people of color. ESPECIALLY those who speak out about racism and hate crimes — that threatens to undermine scapegoating them. These racial stereotypes —historically and deeply rooted — effortlessly serve divert attention away from White elites. Exploited White people feel far less worthless and powerless when they can “get even” with those “responsible” for their economic inequality. Fox News & Friends knows a “gold mine” when they see it — and stoke those very racial fears to build loyal fans who feed their advertising profits.
Patrick (New York)
Smollett's false flag crime hoax did have victims, among them Trump supporters and white men who were quickly demonized as a group by it. The media and politicians were quick to pile on and amplify the damage. This false police report was even used to rally support for legislation in congress. Chicago was fortunate that the camera intended to capture the faked crime was pointing in another direction. One can only imagine how bad the public reaction could have been to video of it. There might even have been rioting in the street. The sad fact is that these hate hoaxes pay because they get the intended reaction from media and government while those who commit them usually get away with little or no punishment. Smollett is no exception.
Don Shipp. (Homestead Florida)
Your disingenuous attempt to minimize and deflect Smollett's despicable and solipsistic behavior, undercuts your credibility, and implicity weakens the logical legitimacy of your racial arguments. While I would agree with most of your assertions about American racism, your decision to use Jussie Smollett as a vehicle to make your point was a serious error. Smollett is no victim, and his mendacious actions give ammunition to the very perpetrators of racism that Charles Blow so abhors.
PJ ABC (New Jersey)
There is nothing trivial about faking a hate crime. It indicts our country as a hateful place, when it is not a hateful place. The statistics on the supposed increase of hate crime, fail to reveal the growing number of hate hoaxes, and rather include them in the statistics. So while the US becomes more tolerant of whatever dumb thing people want to do, certain people keep drilling the lie that we are not tolerant. The intolerant ones are the ones that want you to believe we live in a hateful place. This is just another reminder that we don't live in a racist or homophobic country, because a gay black man can't even get accosted without paying for it. Lol.
Leslie (Kokomo, IN)
@PJ ABC, if this country was not a hateful place, then why was Smollett's claim believed in the first place. Your assertion that "we don't live in a racist or homophobic country" is specious at best, and maliciously untrue at worst. Please provide us with the statistics on "hate hoaxes," because I am pretty sure that the majority have involved white people claiming to have been attacked by blacks in an attempt to cover up their own misdeeds (including the murder of their children or wives). Look it up: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Stuart_(murderer); https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susan_Smith
Rheumy Plaice (Arizona)
@PJ ABC There is enough hate and hate crime to establish that this is a hateful place. You don't need to worry about the negligible additional contribution of a fake crime.
Bert (Madison)
@PJ ABC Hopefully we live in an increasingly tolerant country, but as awareness and acceptance of "others" increase, those who are intolerant can feel threatened and lash out. We've seen this played out in our history many times particularly with Native Americans and black Americans, and particularly by white men. I agree with you that faking a hate crime is not trivial, but I agree with Mr. Blow's assertion that it's not trivial because it hides hate , or (as you seem eager to do) allows people to dismiss actual instances of hate.
HS (Texas)
Jussie Smollett is gay, half black, and half Jewish. 100 years ago any one of those identities would have volunteers lining up for a chance to put a rope around his neck. Instead, he is a celebrity and a millionaire who had to pay his friends to do it. This is undeniable proof we have made more progress on racism than the left would like to admit. See, too, the case of Rachel Dolezal, the white woman who not only pretended to be black, but was an activist with the NAACP. We rightly idolize Martin Luther King for forcing white America to confront the reality that it did not view black citizens as equal American citizens. He, however, did not choose to be a victim of racist violence. The fact that these people do show that too many people view his significance as solely a martyr to racism, rather than someone who sought to extend the promise of America to all of her people. Of course it is wrong to pretend that these cases signify the end of racism, or that the effects of past injustices cannot be felt today, but the endless identity politics only pull black and white Americans further apart. Tearing down every confederate statue will not materially improve the life of any black person, and not every police shooting of a black male is unjustified. It's time to start fixing real problems instead of tilting at windwills to reenact a war that has largely been won. Your reaction to a hate crime hoax ought to be relief that your fellow citizens are not as bad as you imagined.
James L. (New York)
You lost me right away with "America’s obsession with a trivial crime." That said, for me most of what "l'affaire Smollett" is about relates to Smollett's acting career and nothing to do with a hate crime (with the exception being Smollett's own 'hate' for where his career was at). I suspect his time on "Empire" was hitting the skids. While his Q-rating (the measurement of a celebrity's familiarity and appeal, often used to justify -- or not -- contracts and remuneration) was probably pretty high at the start of "Empire," it's likely at an all time low, meaning he wasn't getting great offers, like roles in superhero movies, for work. (Indeed, his talent reps were probably saying he had to accept work on game shows or mouthwash commercials to justify their representation on his behalf. Not a good sign.) Still, I don't think you can have it both ways, Mr. Blow, and call Smollett's case "trivial" while suggesting conservatives will take an "imaginary" posture towards racism. It's been a long, difficult journey educating the public, especially non-hyphenated Americans, to understand the weight of racism still present in our society for all our modern thinking. For anyone to suggest Smollett's claims of attack and its racist overtures is minor is perilously reductive. Smollett warranted serious investigation and judicial accountability. Just because it turned out the way it did, it should still be taken seriously, a case study in our continuing education about racism.
R. Law (Texas)
Food for thought; one does wonder if a young white 'cable TV star' from Highland Park - charged with the same offenses, and given the same deal by the State's Attorney - would be getting the same attention from Individual_1/No Collusion 45*, or the media. In a loosely similar situation, the way Rob Porter was handled by this White House and its media apparatchiks gives some insight.
mikecody (Niagara Falls NY)
@R. Law A valid question, to be sure. The flip side of that question is if a young white 'cable TV star' from Highland Park would have gotten the same automatic outrage from the left had he reported a similar attack?
akrupat (hastings, ny)
IF Smollett lied--something we may never, or not for a very long time know for sure--he didn't only harm himself and his reputation as Mr. Blow says. He harmed the believability of all those who are genuinely subjected to hate crimes. He made it that much easier to dismiss their allegations as fanciful and motivated by some form of self-interest. This young man's behavior has unfortunate social consequences beyond anything I am sure he imagined.
andy b (hudson, fl.)
Smollett the TV movie: The Case of The Small Minded, Self Centered Actor Who Cried Wolf. I, for one, was skeptical about this episode from the get-go. It seemed contrived ( wearing red MAGA hats? ) and absurd (is he really that famous and easily recognizable?). Truth can be hard to swallow. Smollet is a bad actor, he deserves a stiffer penalty. He called in a false alarm,wasting the city of Chicago's resources and subverting the prosecution of actual hate crimes. Of course, the right wing magaphonics seized on this to demagogue about race and sexual orientation. The whole thing stinks in every imaginable way. Just makes me shake my head and hope this somewhat trivial episode doesn't interrupt our country's halting, stumbling plod to equality.
Patrick (Wisconsin)
It would be refreshing if writers like Mr. Blow would take the opportunity for finding common ground that the Jussie story offers. Even as an act of good faith alone, pundits should be linking arms to roast Jussie: Charles Barkley and Trevor Noah showed us the way. Instead, the "never give an inch" mantra compels people on the left to try to claim that, somehow, this story of a cynical selfish actor masquerading as a woke activist is something g other than what it seems. Just treat Jussie like the weird outlier and punchline that he is, acknowledge that our tendency on the left to valorize victims of discrimination is the thing this inept con artist tried to exploit, and move on. Mending the social fabric has to start somewhere; if we can't all laugh at Jussie together, then we're in worse shape than we realize.
marie (marcellus,ny)
I had never heard of Smollett before the initial report , and was somewhat skeptical when I read he walked into a place with a noose around his neck as my first reaction would be to remove it immediately!!! Save it for evidence absolutely but remove the terrible, hateful, hurtful, frightening thing!!!!
S Peterson (California)
Trump wants to punish a black actor who probably did abuse the public’s trust. He wants to see him hang. At the same time, Trump is trying to help a white soldier, indicted for multiple war crimes, including murder, feel comfortable and supported as a war hero. Many of the comments here seem to see no issue with this.
Ray Ozyjowski (Portland OR)
What a laughable argument. If the prosecutor in Chicago didn't give a sweetheart deal to Smollett, he would have and should have faced a real penalty. That is the story, and a sad one at that.
Mark (New York, NY)
You really missed the mark on this one Mr. Blow. Minimizing the effect of this case on hate crime reporting and how the country deals with homophobia and it's dangerous consequences is just plain wrong. You do a disservice to all gay people. Black or white. I've read many or your articles and sometimes you concentrate exclusively on how certain events affect race. It's a shame you didn't give the LBGTQ community the same consideration here.
ART (Athens, GA)
The truth is, Mr. Blow, that Mr. Smollett foregrounded a situation that is very common and needs to be addressed: being accused of racism without any evidence. What needs to be addressed as well, is that blacks also discriminate against others, are racist, and do not acknowledge that many are discriminated against for other reasons. American blacks expect entitlements they do not deserve. I taught in a historically black college for several years and I never witnessed the high level of sexism, antisemitism, and anti gay persecution rampant in that institution anywhere. Mr. Blow, this is not a battle for equality. It is a battle for power and control. When are you going to acknowledge that blacks suffer more crime from other blacks than from whites? I know many blacks who succeed in the workplace because they take pride in themselves, do not use the race card and perform their duties above and beyond with integrity. Yes, discrimination exists, but it is practiced by individuals that do not excel in any area, and who lack character and integrity and will attack anyone who contradicts them for any reason, regardless of race, gender, national origin, sex orientation, etc.
Jay Orchard (Miami Beach)
"If Jussie Smollett's racists were imaginary, then conservatives can argue the racists we all see are imaginary." Exactly Charles. That's why what Smollett did is so harmful and deplorable.
just Robert (North Carolina)
Mr. Blow as usual you are right on point about the petty nature of this offense especially as it distracts from the flagrant abuses of power in the White House. But to me one paragraph especially stood out and requires more attention, the ridiculous and painful justice system of bail and incarceration of thousands who sit in jail waiting for a trial, many of whom are accused of petty crimes butt can not come up with bail. In our county up to 85 percent of those sitting in jail fall into this category and amounts to a crushing amount of pain not only for the unjustly incarcerated but for their families, not to mention the waste of resources for us all.
Lowell Greenberg (Portland, OR)
In the hustle and bustle of the marketplace- the humdrum and often violent buzz of human affairs- few ask why. Why is their a racist in the White House ? Why are the myths of Welfare Queens more resonant to angry white man than the blatant crimes of their President? Why do we pretend we can practice racism, forget the aged and disabled, lead the world in weapons of mass destruction and somehow keep the peace and be loved around the world???and on and on. As if within these bundles of contradiction a greater truth arises. When in fact there is the greater Lie. I will say this. Every word and every action matters. Every plea, every act of compassion, every life saved, every animal cared for, every forest saved, everything matters. The evils of this world only triumph when the good give up hope and become resigned. But resignation is a delusion. It arises from the illusion that there was a golden age- a myopic view of the past- where all was right once- and now so wrong. But tragically it was never right. Never. So the fight must go on generation after generation. And the hope is that the collective insanity gives way to something gentler and truer. But no matter what- hope must never die.
William Case (United States)
The 2017 FBI Hate Crime Report puts U.S. hate crimes in perspective. In 2017 there were 17,285 murders and 7,175 hate crime incidents. Americans are far more likely to be murder victims than hate crime victims. Of the 6,370 known hate crimes offenders, 50.7 percent were white, and 21.3 percent were black. Census data show that whites make up 76.6 percent of the population while blacks make up 13.4 percent of the population. Blacks were the only racial or ethic group that committed a disproportionately high number of hate crimes. The 2017 FBI Hate Crime Report shows whites, who make up about 76.6 percent of the population, committed six hate crime murders while blacks, who make up about 13.4 percent of the population, committed seven hate crime murders. Interracial murders are relatively rare, however, the FBI Uniform Crime Report (Expanded Homicide Data Table 6) shows that blacks murdered 576 whites in 2017 while whites (including Hispanics) murdered 264 blacks. https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2017/crime-in-the-u.s.-2017/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-6.xls https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2017/topic-pages/tables/table-3.xls https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045218
Voter (Chicago)
As a Chicagoan, we must mot forget, that what Mr. Blow, Mr. Trump, and many others from out-of-town have conveniently forgotten here, is the incalculable damage Mr. Smollett's hoax has done to real victims of real hate crimes. (On a minus 23 degree night!) Mr. Blow - you are truly minimizing this horrendous damage. We see it in Donald Trump's predictably hateful tweets - that people who claim to be victims of hate crimes will no longer be believed. And that is a gigantic tragedy, and why two reputations are now ruined: Jussie Smollett, and Kim Foxx the Cook County State's Attorney, who will likely lose her next election. Remember, that infamous Laquan McDonald case is why Rham Emanuel lost his job as our mayor. Jussie Smollett did something truly and deeply horrible that will deprive a lot of hate crime victims of justice, and Mr. Blow, you are trivializing that crime. We do not put up with fools here in Chicago. Not Donald Trump, Rham Emanuel, Jussie Smollett, Kim Foxx, nor Charles Blow.
Rodger Parsons (NYC)
Smollett's false claim of a racist attack creates a credibility problem for all the real attacks that might now be questioned because of it. It appears to validate the pants on fire liar president about fake news and will forever make anything the actor says questionable. There are ways to fight racism, a false scenario is not one of them.
et.al.nyc (great neck new york)
The media is obsessed with the absurd. Or is absurdity being used to influence the media? The Presidents accuses the media of "lies", but legitimate media gives a big boost to small stories while ignoring real racial discrimination. Is the media being truthful when it ignores real stories about hatred? The media is now attempting to stymie the efforts of a legitimate Presidential hopeful by giving life to another silly story of inappropriate "touching" that should be ignored. Is this front page newsworthy? What is the vital for the public to know? Issues, perhaps? It is the media's obsession with the absurd that gave life to stories planted by Russian bots in 2016. Is this still going on? There may have been a crime committed in Chicago, but it is not national news, just another tabloid moment being brought to the public by journalists who really should know better.
Lefthalfbach (Philadelphia)
Ehhhhh- you whiffed on that pitch, Mr. Blow. Smollett did not just “...lie about white people who support...” Trump. He lied about them to further his career. We have more than enough problems without self-centered celebrities trying to prove how tough they are by claiming victim status. I mean, Smollett lied for weeks about this. he went on TV and talked about how he fought back. And he did not use hurt real hate crime victims. He gave Trmp a narrative to argue that there really are not very many white on black/brown/yellow hate crimes. His base feeds on that. So, Smoll;ett’s Lies are actually a pretty big deal and the Illinois States Attorney in question has a lot to explain.
Karen J. (Ohio)
Mr. Blow, You are attempting to trivialize the Jussie Smollett case now that all of America knows this was a lie Mr Smollett used for his own self interest. The people most harmed by Mr. Smollett’s lie are the the real black victims of hate crimes and racism. Police Superintendent Johnson’s delivered the appropriate message to the citizens of Chicago at the time of Mr: Smollett’s arrest. Your op-ed could have been used to urge Mr. Smollett to apologize for his actions and make things right for all of Chicago. The reason there continues to be extraordinary media coverage is, in fact, because Mr. Smollett insists on perpetuating the lie. He made a very bad error in judgment that served to inflame racial tensions in this country. An admission of guilt would serve to help heal the hurt caused by his actions.
The Observer (In fair Verona, where we lay our scene)
There is justice for people on the inside of the progressive Democratic Party loyalist base like Hillary and Jussie, but never the same treatment for people like General Flynn, who shared his daily schedule with an unauthorized person and was fined one hundred thousand dollars for doing it. The Obama-designated squad assigned to keep Trump from being elected and later to stage a coup d'etat against him must all face judgement or we risk a division within this country as severe as the Civil War. This is a recipe for a revolution if it is not changed. The British denied American colonists fair treatment and were overthrown within a generation.
J L S (Alexandria VA)
“People, I just want to say, you know, can we all JUST get along? Can we get along? Can we stop making it, making it horrible for the older people and the kids? … It’s just not right. It’s not right. It’s not, it’s not going to change anything. We’ll, we’ll get our justice … Please, we can get along here. We all can get along. I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while. Let’s try to work it out. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to work it out.” Rodney King appealing for calm during the Los Angeles riots (May 1, 1992)
Deborah (Ithaca, NY)
This analysis is too kind in it’s depiction of Smollett. By claiming that he had been the victim of a hate crime in order to juice up his career, he showed he has no compassion, no imagination, for victims of actual, violent, awful, and sometimes deadly, hate crimes. He’s an empty shell. This state of emptiness and selfishness can be achieved by men and women of all races. See: Donald Trump.
Green Tea (Out There)
You are just flat out wrong. The importance of Mr. Smollett's fabrication has nothing to do with diverted resources. It has to do with his attempt to heighten (and personally profit from) the already intense conflict building between the races in this country. We have quickly gone from Black Lives Matter and Oscars So White to denunciations of theoretically omnipresent White Supremacy and White Nationalist Terrorism. The accounts of a popular African American actor being attacked by racist thugs fed right into that. Mr. Smollett should be shamed from the public square the same way Steve King and Megan Kelley (rightfully) were.
libdemtex (colorado/texas)
Neither the original scam or the expose deserved any media attention.
hazel18 (los angeles)
Please stop another unfair trope-that public defenders provide less than competent representation. It is just not true. I know, I was a pubic defender in Los Angeles, the oldest public defender office in the country and our lawyers, trained and supervised provided top notch representation to our thousands of clients. We were much better lawyers than the reckless and unprincipled law school graduate who hung out a shingle without any hands on courtroom training and took on serious cases with disastrous results. And stop falling for the "high priced attorney" equals highly talented attorney fallacy. I know a lot of famous blowhards who do their clients a great disservice, overcharging and under performing.
Mark Thomason (Clawson, MI)
@hazel18 -- I have rarely seen a public defender allowed to prepare properly before court. No matter how good he is, he is less able when he can't even know what witnesses will say, can't know to get other witnesses, and can't fully debrief and prepare his own client. That is always true of any lesser crimes, and the comparison is stark in more serious crimes only for relative lack rather than total lack. It isn't that the PD is a bad lawyer, it is that the PD does not get a fair chance to defend.
InfinteObserver (TN)
Spot on article! The Jussie Smollett story is basically a non-story. YAWN! Move on people.
PE (Seattle)
"It is an ugly truth that money and power make a mockery of our justice system." Exactly. The inequity in our justice system should run the headlines for months. Instead, right wing pundits fall over themselves about a non-story, a TV actor messing-up. Big deal. It should run one day in the celebrity section, a small blurb, move on. The fact that this has lingered is a testament to Trump's infection of our culture. The fact that an American president tweeted about this non-story, to stir-up media, is so utterly embarrassing and pathetic. When was the last time Trump tweeted about disproportionate incarceration rates favoring white people? You won't find those tweets. The story, the issue, the problem, the sickness, the disease is Trump and MAGA culture pretending, gaslighting, shaming to hide the truth, to run from our history and to desperately, aggressively, dangerously, and pathetically try to cling to white power.
ComradeBrezhnev (Morgan Hill)
Blow seemingly will never overcome his implicit bias against Trump. It's commonly known as TDS, an affliction that prevents otherwise decent thinkers to lose the ability to reason beyond a hatred for the President. They are the same ones who placed the 'racist' label on ardent critics of Pres Obama. Lots of dissembling rhetoric here, Charles, and it read like an apologia.
Vassie (Brooklyn)
I've seen quite a few real stories of people in Maga hats being assaulted. I've yet to read a true story of a person being assaulted by a nags hat wearing assailant.
BostonStrong (Boston MA)
"For the record, if Smollett did what he is accused of having done, it was not only wrong, but also stupid." - Charles Blow Actually Smollett DID do what he is accused of having done and it was not only wrong and stupid, but a crime. In the words of State’s Attorney Joseph Magats in an interview with CBS Chicago: "I do not believe he is innocent,” Does he think Mr. Smollet is guilty? “Yes,” he replied. The case was ostensibly dropped because the prosecution was not 100% convinced they could obtain a conviction. Much more likely, the dismissal was politically motivated, and former Cook County Justice Sheila O'Brien has petitioned for a special prosecutor to investigate the mishandling of the case . "Smollett’s greatest offense in this regard was not lying, if indeed he did, but lying about white people who support a racist in the White House." - Charles Blow Actually Smollett did lie, but about two Nigerian men (who coincidentally are supporters of the President). I would offer that his greatest offense was betraying hundreds of thousands of supporters in an offensively selfish effort. Finally, just because this hate crime was a hoax is not going to make me any more skeptical of future such claims, but examining his supporter's (including the author's) continued delusion about the event will certainly make me more skeptical about their judgment.
JG (NY)
Sure, Charles would just like this to go away. But his complaints don’t ring true. The Jussie Smollett case was big news when people thought it was true. Prime time news, twitter storms, interviews on major talk shows. As a reader noted below, the Smollett story was a big “win” for the left in promoting its preferred narrative: a racist and hateful America, led by the racist hater in chief. The “attackers” even wore MAGA hats! So when evidence came to light that there was no truth to his story, that the entire thing was a falsehood, of course the right rebounded. And people in the middle were whipsawed. It was the Covington boys all over again—but on steroids. And the main stream media, liberal bias or not, was properly embarrassed by its gullibility and sought to restore some credibility and balance. After making so much of the original story, how could they ignore the emerging evidence of a hoax? The hoax was troubling at several levels. While the column makes this all about race, the Smollett case was also about celebrity and wealth enjoying a different kind of justice—as Rahm Emanuel noted. And race played a part. It was also about the moral corruption of Chicago politics, even the DA’s office: seal the records—make this go away. But the story might have died more quickly if Smollett hadn’t seized on the disposition—and the DA’s ineptness—to immediately proclaim, on the courthouse steps, his story to be true again. Rub salt in the wound.
Richard (Palm City)
Yes, and I would argue that the MeTooers complaints are as imaginary as Smoletts.
Lake Woebegoner (MN)
Charles, remember that old passage about he who has not himself sinned should cast the first stone. In that example from the New Testament, no one rose a hand to cast it. You've done some serious stone-casting in your time, Charles. How do you manage to do it over and over again, casting your muddied stones at all those who differ with your views? The media is "obssessed," sir, as are you.
wally s. (06877)
How did this get printed? It argues initially that it’s absurd to think this has an impact on real hate crimes being believed ( where are the stats, it asks). Soon thereafter it takes the predictable ( for all ny times staffers) to shot at conservatives- that they’ll use this to ( wait for it) not believe racism is that large an issue. What? I know every op-Ed needs to malign conservatives, but maybe this one needs to be thought through a bit more. Jussie Smollett case involves a reaction by people who get accused of racism in far too many areas. Don’t think Obamacare is a good policy? Oh you oppose the first black President. Want ID cards to vote? Racist. Etc This opinion piece seems just more of the same. The focus according to Blow, should not be on Smollett and his implication that Trump supporters are racist. It should be to minimize Smollet actions while continuing to point finger at Trump supporters. Yeah- it’s crazy these people actually get tired of those accusations, right? They shouldn’t seize on the false claims.
Denis E Coughlin (Jensen Beach, Florida)
The real issue for us is how our President exploits our difference and encourages the disharmony. Weather he's Putin's puppet or just a hateful uncaring creature, his mindset is evil and totally un-American. How can people support his leadership?
sarah alderdice (lancaster pennsylvania)
The quality of mercy is not strained It droppeth as a gentle rain from Heaven.... It was an error at best; he is an actor, not the president... We have more pressing matters crushing us.....
JBR (West Coast)
Yes, Charles, the racists you see under every bed are imaginary. If they weren't, why would it be necessary to constantly drag up ancient stories of racism in past centuries to keep the outrage alive on the front page? Why does it make national headlines for a week each time a drunken college kid says a naughty word? It is so hard to find current examples of real racism that the media must dredge up blackface from decades ago in order to whip up black anger and white guilt. Of course, the alternative would be to challenge the African American community to face the self destructive aspects of its own culture, and no one would ever be that racist.
Mick F (Truth or Consequences, NM)
The point of this hoax was to vilify a class of people. This piece continues the vilification. It is ugly.
Diana (Finley)
Those who make up hoaxes and get away with it should be ashamed. Why even ask?
SteveRR (CA)
"I believe you are also seeing an expression of subconscious race bias in the media itself that truly registers sensation at the thought of this black man’s deception." So - it's all about the media's magical racism. Let's add 'subconscious racial bias' to micro-aggressions as the latest incarnation - thanks Mr. Blow! - to the pantheon of double speak that identifies racial prejudice absent - you know - any real-life empirically-based racial prejudice I am trying to imagine how pretzel-like your rational thought process would have to be to extract that manner of lesson from this whole sordid event.
Observor (Backwoods California)
He's the Tawana Brawley of his day, and not only should he be ashamed of himself, he should apologize to every single person who was ever the victim of a hate crime, A big donation to the Matthew Shepard Foundation would be a start.
J. M. Sorrell (Northampton, MA)
Racists and homophobes will always look for an excuse to be bigoted. It is an old story. Smollett most likely needs mental health help, and he is certainly responsible for what has occurred. Does systematic racism and homophobia cause mental illness? I believe it can just as poverty can. Mr. Blow, this story will pass. It cannot get too much traction because those Fox and Trump racists can only say so much before they indict themselves. Once in a great while, a woman may cry "rape" when it did not happen. It does not negate the epidemic of violence against women. Our work continues, Mr. Blow.
WuzYoungOnceToo (TX)
Everytime I think that I've witnessed the limits of the left's collective insanity and ability to convince itself that the misdeeds of its own are really a reason to point fingers at the other side...someone like the author of this ridiculous drivel comes along and proves me wrong again. And no, Smollett's story was never believable by anyone who disn't desperately need to believe in order to rationalize their own hatred. In spite of the nonstop string of similar (though less expensive and elaborate) hoaxes, as well as the media so recently and thoroughly embarrassing itself with the rush to misjudgement regarding the Catholic kids in DC, the left was once again easily duped by an obvious lie. Now, in its embarrassment, it lashes out in an attempt to focus on something other than its pathetic inability to reflect on its own foolishness and learn something.
Mark F (Ottawa)
Through all this, I still have no idea what the show Empire is about. Not a single clue.
Ken (Highland Park NJ)
“None of this is of any real consequence beyond the local authorities and Smollett himself.” Smollett didn’t do this for local impact. He did it for national impact to raise his profile. The fact that the outrage is national is his own fault.
Raven Brewer (New York, NY)
"It is interesting Hollywood drama, but meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Smollett was charged with making false reports — lying. If the police are correct, there was no assault or death. There was no property damage. There was no theft." Um, yes, there was: somewhere over $100,000 for the time Chicago police spent investigating the hoax. Smollett ought to be liable for that.
walterhett (Charleston, SC)
My friends disagree, but Smollett's act was a cry for help, an expression of the outrage and helplessness of an eyewitness of the violence, rudeness, and ignorance that many have about the state of Black America; we see it frequently, but fail to recognize it. It is the indifference and devil-may-care attitude of young men; it got Mike Brown killed. I first saw it in the reading of slave narratives. Male slaves were so enraged that a myth persisted they could turn themselves in to be so sold to new planters to get away from old ones. James Baldwin writes about this rage. W. E. B. Dubois wrote of "warring souls." Langston Hughes wrote of "dreams deferred." Jesse simply staged a drama in real time, as a mirror to the whirlwind of lethal violence and nonviolence that is America's growing impulse toward people of color and their amendment nine liberties. He had to get caught: to commit the errors that enabled the police to trace events to him, in order to present in full display the maelstrom of pain that is his breathing each day, to demand that it be watched. Not all feel this way, but some. For some it is an occasional peak. For others, it's a daily reality. One I know too well.
Sarah A (Stamford, CT)
Are we really putting Smollett in the same pantheon as DuBois, Baldwin, and Hughes?
Jonathan Katz (St. Louis)
@walterhett "to turn themselves in to be so sold"? What is that supposed to mean?
magicisnotreal (earth)
@walterhett Some would say that all transgression is a cry for help. That works as long as a person realizes that the thing does not have to be intended to be the case.
Michael (Bloomington)
The Smollet case has nothing to do with race. The only person who tried to make it about race was Smollet himself, who claimed that his attackers had certain characteristics. This is a story about privilege. It is also a story about a prosecutor who engaged in some seriously unprofessional activities, including speaking with family members of the accused and then claiming to have recused herself when she in fact did not.
Hank (Florida)
This is the kind of story liberals loved until the victim morphed into the perp. Gay and black man attacked by white men who hate blacks and homosexuals. This fraud backfired when Jussie Smollet became another Tawana Brawley so the fake news media had to go back to the Mueller investigation which turned into another backfire. Tough week.
J-John (Bklyn)
No Charles, no! The bullying in the Smollett case is being done by the writ-large media profiteering off American society’s increasingly debilating obsession with celebrity! Given the everyday real life givens of the CPD had Jussie Smollett been proletariat Jessie Smollett the, on its face, improbability of this case would have rightfully caused it to have been triaged into file-13! But spooked by the celebrity-driven hubbub they committed resources so disproportionate to the even-if-true proposition as to exhibit criminal irresponsiblity! To save face they then continued playing to the kliegs by portraying a ninety-nine-cents-store hoax as the hoax of the century! That trump was too drawn to the kliegs to redeem some of his bugged-out demagoguery is unexceptional! It’s the kliegs doing what they do. Us country boys shouid know better than anybody, Charles! The kliegs draw bugs! Look what so many conflating them with a political Lode Star has gotten us!!
Blackmamba (Il)
The Chicago Police Department has been known for it's corruption, bigotry, brutality and incompetence for decades. That is the enduring embarrassment. Earning the antipathy, distrust and fear of black Chicago that led to the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department to address the bias of the Chicago Police Department via a Consent Decree under the Obama administration Under Rahm Emanuel, Chicago has had more homicides annually than New York City and Los Angeles combined. And the Chicago Police Department only solves 18% of it's homicides. By far the worst of any other major American city. Rahm Emanuel aided and abetted by his former police superintendent and states attorney tried to cover up the killing of innocent black civilians by Chicago cops. Rekia Boyd and LeQuan McDonald were among the most infamous. Former top cop Garry McCarthy took the hit for McDonald. While states attorney Anita Alvarez lost an election to Kim Foxx over both cases. Current Mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot led a nation wide search committee that came back with 3 candidates to replace McCarthy. Eddie Johnson was not among them. Rahm Emanuel corruptly and malignly picked Johnson anyway. Before the Smollett matter neither Rahm Emanuel nor his current police Department head cared about the lives of black crime victims. And they still don't.
Will Munny (Houston)
“Everyone is trying to make this case bigger than it is and to mean more than it does.” That was the fault of the media for taking Smollet’s claims as verified facts and then holding the incident up as evidence of white racism born anew. It was the fault of pandering politicians trying to draw the limelight by calling it a modern day lynching. So now that it is clearly a hoax, that blew up in Smollet’s, the media’s and the pandering politician’s faces you want to paint the incident it as not a big deal and the wrongfully vilified, who are rightfully punching back, as hysterical....and, of course, racist. How about just writing, Smollet lied and due to our biases we believed him without question and that was a mistake. We apologize for our subsequent race hysteria and will endeavor to do better next time? Just once, apologize and not retrench.
Anne-Marie Hislop (Chicago)
That the biggest embarrassment that this country has ever had on the world stage thinks that this tempest-in-a-teapot is a "national embarrassment. Is laughable, to say the least. And, yes, it is a minor story, but one that suggest privilege and money hold sway and influence in our injustice system. That is the only area of focus worth bothering about in this sordid little story. As to Smollett - never heard of him before this story - hope to never hear of him again.
Zeke27 (NY)
trump has no business asking the Justice Department to investigat Smollett when trump himself was implicated in the New Zealand white nationalist murders. It makes zany sense that donny would focus on a tv actor instead of doing anything to reduce murder and violence. Just another unfit day in the life of a wannabe president.
rjon (Mahomet, Ilinois)
A breath of fresh air. Thank you Mr. Blow. The media focus on Smollett’s deception and vociferously declaim its evil intent. They do, of course, point out Trump’s daily deception, but they appear to allow Trump’s own description of it as “innocent hyperbole” (from his ‘book’ on deal-making) to stand. The key here is the attribution of evil to one and the ignoring of evil in the other. Trump’s “innocent hyperbole” should not be allowed to stand. It should simply not be permitted. Every lie should receive a headline—Trump lies! Trump deceives the American people! I couldn’t care less about Smollett’s deception.
Joe Bentivegna (Fairfield, Ct)
Mr. Blow fails to state in this article whether he believes this was a hoax. He tepidly states: "For the record, if Smollett did what he is accused of having done, it was not only wrong, but also stupid." Mr. Blow should explain to his readers why he does not believe the videotape of Nigerians who paid for the equipment used in this hoax may be bogus or fabricated. If Mr. Blow believes that past prejudice against gays and African Americans means that it is okay to ignore the law today, that's fine. At least it is a cogent argument. But he should not tergiversate on the veracity of this hoax and blame conservatives for insisting on Rule of Law.
sdw (Cleveland)
We all have read about, heard about, talked about and maybe even joked about the Jussie Smollett case. We know that a plea deal was arranged in Chicago with minimal punishment and no jail time. Strangely, we also know that in this period of very big news, the little Smollett story lingers. Charles Blow suggests that the story of Jussie Smollett is being kept alive by Donald Trump, racist conservatives and Trump’s Ministry of Propaganda, Fox News, to condition the public to presume – until proven otherwise – that reports of hate crimes and police violence against people of color are fake. Charles Blow is probably right, but he should not invest too much of himself in making the case. Jussie Smollett strikes many of us an emotionally troubled young man who needs help. Smollett, for all of his posturing as a fulltime activist and part-time celebrity, seems to have been most concerned and insecure about his television career. It is a mistake to use Justin Smollett as a symbol in protesting the attempts by Donald Trump to trivialize or undermine legitimate complaints about violence against black Americans. Smollett, unfortunately for Charles Blow and those of us who are disgusted by Trump, gives the racists too much of a credibility card to play.
Partha Neogy (California)
“FBI & DOJ to review the outrageous Jussie Smollett case in Chicago. It is an embarrassment to our Nation!” To put that tweet in perspective, Trump doesn't show a fraction of that outrage when dozens of our school children are gunned down, and a US resident seeking a visa in a Saudi embassy in Turkey is murdered, dismembered and has his remains spirited out of the country.
Frank Marciano (Hoboken Nj)
Totally respect and agree with most of Mr. Blow's opinions. But this convoluted minimization of the Smollett matter is not up to his intellectual standards. Why, why is that so ? The issue is that the liberal press cannot seem to understand how their own credibility is minimized by failing to acknowledge the truth of situations when bad acts are done by people they consider in need of protection. It started with Sharpton refusing to state that Tawana lied. Here again, we see the same problem where some liberals will just not state that Jussie is a liar. It's not a racial prejudice its a lack of honesty that stirs people sense of right or wrong. Chris Rock is the best at destroying the hypocrisy of the left in their treatment of the truth. Why did the organizers of the NAACP Image Awards ask Chris Rock to ignore the Smollett elephant not in the room? Because they knew he does not care about projecting a false image, many a truth is told in just and Jessie is clearly a joke.
Duco (NJ)
When it was all about Racist Trump Voters yelling MAGA, it was a critical story for the Left. Because as the world knows, that's what a trump voter is, RIGHT? When it turned out that Smollett committed fraud in mailing powder to himself and then hiring 2 guys to stage an attack on him to further advance his career and take advantage of the hatred of trump by the left, it was a critical story for the right, because as the world knows, the Left has trump Derangement syndrome RIGHT? The real deal is this guy was a total doosh in doing what he did. regardless of who was more offended. It was WRONG. period. What is now worse is that there is an attempt to cover up or whitewash the whole ordeal due to Smollet's either familial or political connections. This is an affront to any american who stands before a judge for a crime they committed, for any illegal immigrant who stands before a judge awaiting their fate, for any convict who is now trying to make strides with their new life outside of confinement. America should be outraged that crimes were committed by a fool and strings were pulled to protect him from due process.
Wende (South Dakota)
This story has far greater legs that I fear will do even more damage. Jessie Smollett’s bail was kept and yet charges were dismissed. Community service was mentioned; only those who are guilty do community service. I believe they dropped the charges due to the prosecutorial misconduct. The prosecutor recused herself after the interjection of a certain Ms. Tchen, former advisor to Michele Obama, into the case. The same Ms. Tchen now put in place by Richard Cohen, formerly of the SPLC, to head that group before his own ouster after that of Morris Dees. That certainly doesn’t help their cause as they try to move forward. Progressives and progressive entities keep shooting themselves in the foot. We try to have a higher standard than that sewer that is the current Republican administration, and then, when we are honest about cleaning our house or admitting it wasn’t so clean, it comes back to bite us. We have to be like Caesar’s wife if we are going to complain about the train wreck that is the Republican Party and it’s henchmen (Fox News, the NRA, etc.). Otherwise it’s just pointless because no one will listen to one pot calling out the other.
Tejano (South Texas)
Seriously, Mr Blow? I would argue that the case got more coverage at first than after the discovery of Smollett’s lie, Especially with all the chiming in by politicians and pundits about how awful it was. The story has legs now because of Chicago’s States Attorney bungling this case beyond ridiculousness. Yes, DT has put in his two cents as he is won’t to do. Additionally, the Mayor and Chief of Police have expressed outrage. Outrage that many in Chicago feel.
Steve (New Jersey)
Mr. Blow, you are wrong, plain and simple. It matters tremendously what Mr. Smollett attempted to get away with. Truth matters. You know that. We should call people on their abuse of the truth, whether it be Mr. Smollett or Mr. Trump. Let's not try to compare degrees of untruthfulness. Mr. Smollett's charade was no different than Sabrina Erdely's article "A Rape on Campus" published in Rolling Stone, and for which that magazine is paying a dear price. Mr. Smollett's crime is not trivial. It underlines the importance of truthfulness in all discussions related to racisim, sexism and human decency. "It very well could have happened" is very different than "It did happen."
jbazz (Westchester)
Charles, let's for a moment imagine in a reverse world a different situation. A young white cable TV star, makes an allegation that 2 men wearing Obama hats attack him and tell him "Chicago is Obama Country", this young actor is gay and white and alleges based on the statement they "MAY" have been black. The city undergoes 14+ days of intense investigation and then it is discovered he "allegedly " may have staged the event with 2 muscular white colleagues and paid them "possibly" $3500. How do we think in today's society that would have been dealt with from both a social and criminal stand-point? Would the Cook County DA still have let him off the hook? DOUBTFUL I take exception to your allegation that "Conservatives" may now use this to diminish other forms and practices of racist behavior. We can tell the different between reality an fantasy. Of course there still continues to be racist and ethnocentric behavior which affect our brothers and sisters of color, just like Jussie played upon in his self promotional allegedly false complaint. This does not mean that all forms of racism and harmful behavior are fake, NO it simply mean Jussie's is and his friends in Cook County got him off. In actuality you are painting an entire group of political leaning people who believe less government intrusion, regulation and more self determination are a better format of American ideals. Please look at your own writing and see if you are subject to what you are writing about.
Chris-zzz (Boston)
Trump gets cleared for collusion and obstruction. Smollett is arrested for a hate crime hoax. Avenatti is charged with theft, extortion, and tax evasion. Biden is accused of creepy groping behavior. Things have not been going so well. It's time to put aside the never-ending Dem/media focus on identity politics, accusations of racism and white supremacy, hate crimes, and collusion/obstruction and to focus instead on policy. The Dems can win in 2020 but only if party leaders build a strong policy case for America choosing Dems instead of trying to build a case that Repubs are devils.
Mike Collins (Texas)
I am a huge critic of the media, but in this case they did not go overboard. Why? If Smollett had actually been attacked in the manner he claimed to have been, it would have been news deserving of significant coverage. I am sure that Mr. Blow would have written a column about it. So—when the story unraveled, the unraveling deserved a lot of coverage also.The fact that conservatives twisted it to their advantage is just par for the course. Even if what he said had been true, they would have worked to change the subject in order to make it seem that white supremacy is not a real problem. Now it is the liberals’ turn to change the subject—to the actual facts about the rise of white supremacy—a rise that Smollett tried to cash in on.
rebecca1048 (Iowa)
Is it a case of privileged, or a set up? It has me laughing!
skeptic (New York)
Funny, nobody thought this was trivial when he was a heroic victim and appeared on all of the network shows despite the ridiculous nature of his claims. Now, all of a sudden when shown to be a craven liar motivated by greed, his crime is "trivial" and an "entertainment story". Spare me the double standards and hypocrisy.
K. Corbin (Detroit)
Charles, I look to you to give me an inside and accurate view of race relations. How can A white man like me truly understand the implications of mistreatment of blacks? I think most of the time I get it right, but there are times I don’t. With this column, I can see that you suffer the same problem. Your failure to see how the Smollett case is a big deal, is your failure to see things from a white perspective. It is a huge deal! This isn’t an act of mis-guided prejudice. This was a calculated attempt to fabricate racism. I would think all persons interested in civil rights would be outraged. Many times the view of whether something is “racist “is nothing more than perspective. Often times, things lies in a gray area, and advocates push it one way or the other. A good example would be a recent post I saw on Facebook comparing Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby. The person who posted it was arguing for the unequal treatment of the black Cosby, who is in prison. I had to point out to her that Mr. Weinstein has not even faced trial. Again, perspective is everything! Please don’t take this as a mere criticism. My hope would be that this is the beginning of some real discussion of race relations; where we go to that uncomfortable place where we talk about things that really matter. I have no doubt that the Trump rallies attract thousands of people who are motivated mainly by race relations, but no such words are ever spoken. Let’s start talking about it!
Celeste (Fair Hill, MD)
Don't be naive; you are minimizing Smollett's crimes as well as the very real and very damaging impact on other people of color and on liberals who support them. While I agree that he has contributed to the willful blindness of conservatives when it comes to the magnitude of racism in this country, his blatant deception has done far more psychic damage to those of us on the left.
Dejah (Williamsburg, VA)
Trump supporters tripping over a classic logical fallacy: Elephants are gray. All gray things are not elephants. Jussie Smollet lied about being Trump Stomped. All Trump Stompings are not lies. It's SO simple, it really does NOT require a whole op-ed, except that someone simply HAD to waste MORE words on this nobody. Is his 15 minutes up YET?
Alfred di Genis (Germany)
I had never heard of Mr Smollett before this incident, have no opinion on it and have never seen him act. But I am intrigued and not a little puzzled by the suggestion by Mr Smollett’s lawyer that his attackers, two African- Americans, may have “been in whiteface.” I am well aware that non-African-Americans appearing in blackface is considered a racial slur and it is justifiable that it is thought so considering all the racist horrors it alludes to. But I am at a loss to figure out where in the every-broadening concept of racism and “tropes” a black man in white face fits, if it fits at all. Could it become a slur of some distant or not-so-distant future? https://thehill.com/homenews/media/436243-smollett-attorney-attackers-may-have-been-in-whiteface
Leslie (Virginia)
I agree the whole story was minor in the larger scheme of things; I had never even heard of Jussie Smollett before the story broke since I don't watch anything on FOX. But his claim that he was attacked by WHITE MEN was intended to inflame emotions about those wicked and violent white folks and possibly could have started a series of riots like after the Rodney King debacle. That is serious and should have figured into a decision about punishment or not. As it is, we now know that even black men get off easy if they have money and/or fame. Huh. Not a good lesson in this alreay tinderbox society.
Robert (St Louis)
"...if Smollett did what he is accused of having done". This is like listening to a person talk about our "alleged" landing on the moon. If your argument starts with a ridiculous premise, everything that follows can be consigned to the garbage bin. See Alex Jones.
Michael (Brooklyn)
Someone once falsely accused me of physically attacking her to get me out of an apartment I subletted. I spent a night in jail and the charges were eventually dismissed. No one ever even talked about bringing charges against the white woman who falsely accused me, though the police did appear to later think she had duped them. So maybe Smollet still made his point? (BTW, I do believe Kavanaugh’s accuser, but Kavanaugh is white and comes from privilege.)
Scott F (Right Here, On The Left)
“FBI & DOJ to review the outrageous Jussie Smollett case in Chicago. It is an embarrassment to our Nation!” With that tweet, Donald Trump took the absurdity of America’s obsession with a trivial crime and entertainment story and heightened it. No. It’s not a trivial crime. It’s a major crime which demonized a group of people that I really don’t like: MAGA-hat-wearing bumpkins. But just because I don’t like them does not make this man’s crime “trivial.” I’m disappointed in your statement and premise, Charles.
Letmeknow (Ohio)
Your comment that Phillip Bump indicates that the hoax garnered more attention than the initial incident is t any indication that the hoax was worse than the incident but rather the shock of it being revealed as a hoax of a terrible hate attack on an innocent man, of which even those of us Trump supporters found despicable!
ManhattanWilliam (New York, NY)
Your apologizing for Smollett really is a low point for you, Mr. Blow, someone that I've come to respect. You say that "if guilty, it was not only wrong, but also stupid." How about ILLEGAL? CRIMINAL? He took the issues of race and homophobia and exploited them for personal gain. In MY view, these are HEINOUS acts that cannot be shrugged off. I'm sorry but just because we have a president who's callous and doesn't care about issues of racism or homophobia or other unacceptable conduct doesn't mean that we can just shrug this off as "tabloid fodder." You can't have your cake and eat it too, Mr. Blow. If you aspire to a better America than the one we live in today, you cannot excuse with pompous disdain the conduct of someone who exploited his fame and prayed upon the worst impulses people harbor which stirred up tensions that are already frayed simply for personal gain. Finally, the way this case was dismissed is an affront to the very concept of justice that should always be applied equally to everyone regardless of race or sex or social status. If liberals want to cite the issue of an unfair justice system as one of many reasons that minorities are discriminated against then it must apply in ALL cases equally, without making excuses when it's convenient to do so.
USNA73 (CV 67)
Mr. Blow is quite correct in his analysis. This is no more than a minor local story used by many parties for their own grandiose purposes. Most astonishing to me was the grandstanding by the police chief in his attempt to be judge, jury and executioner of Mr. Smollett. How about just doing your job? Apparently, the array of microphones is just too alluring. No "journalists" or those posing as them seemed to mind. Everything these days is click bait.
C.H. (NYC)
You are absolutely correct, conservatives may well argue that racism is imaginary after this contretemps. Smollett handed that argument to them on a plate. Who should be embarrassed? I can't imagine anyone who thinks racism doesn't exist will feel any embarrassment at all.
Rick Beck (DeKalb)
Smollett never had his day in court which means that we will never know if he is guilty or not. At any rate he was the perfect punching bag for all the republican racists who have come out of the closet since the advent of PRESIDENT Trump. These folks have always been there, kept to a low roar by the constraints of a politically correct world. It was an effort aimed at stemming racism. That effort since Trump has had the effect of removing the lid from a boiling pot of water and releasing decades of pent up hatred. As I see it Smollett is just one more brick in the racist republican wall. They don't have to hide anymore and all the ugly is in plain sight.
MTM (MI)
Unusual for you Chuck to find a race controversy when in fact it actually is a race issue. One supporter by two AA presidential candidates and aided by the Chicago AG who is also AA. Any journalist worth their ‘degree’ should be cover what you glossed over and that is the unfairness of the judicial system. But then again you couldn’t blame #45 and the white population.
Jim (NH)
"if Smollett did what he is accused of..."...that is precisely why the story continues to drag on (plus it's a really wacko story)...if, after the case was dropped, he just came out and apologized and scuttled away (assuming he is guilty) that would have been the end of it, but as it is, things are left hanging, and people will continue to speculate until someone explains what actually happened...I assume you can understand people's interest in this "tabloid fodder"...of course, it is "meaningless in the grand scheme of things" as you say, but then so are many things that people go on about until the story is over...
Tad La Fountain (Penhook VA)
This is one of the least intelligent op-ed pieces ever run in the Times. This episode isn't about anything other than the arc that runs from Tawana Brawley and Al Sharpton through the Duke lacrosse team and Mike Nifong to here - the willingness of some despicable people to hijack an enormous societal problem to their own pathetic advantage. Shame on them for their calculated self-interest...and shame on Charles Blow for equating the revulsion that I and many others feel with the mindless reaction of Trump supporters.
Sherry (Boston)
Where have you been? I feel like I haven't read you in weeks, and the American public is lesser for it!
Adam (Harrisburg, PA)
I don’t believe this was a “trivial” crime at all.
R Ami (NY)
It is not obsession with Smollett case, it is justified indignation with all the never ending double standards by the media and the lib-prog world. Many people, liberals and conservatives lives have been destroyed and jobs lost over a simple comment, or action done decades ago... Example : Megyn Kelly for saying wearing a blackface was normal when she was a child. No that she wore/approve it. Kevin Heart, a comedian, for saying he didnt want his kids to be gays, "Oh the crime". And these are only 2 cases. If anything of value we learned from the CovingtonKids and Smollett cases, is that there is indeed a huge difference between: Justice AND Social-Justice. The first one is based on real facts, evidence, witnesses and is individually applied. The second on speculation, emotions, subjective perspectives, feelings hurt and groupthink. Thankfully the former prevailed, although it only did thanks to a video taken showing the reality of the case; has it not been for that, the poor maga hat catholic kids wouldve been demonized for life. Finally, Im glad to know that the Smollett guy will be marked for ever even if he was let go because he uses a toilet or bread that is put to better used for a "meaner" criminal, or however the argument goes.
Dan (Buffalo)
Blow makes several comments about the case being two months old as if we shouldn't care. If individual #1 broke the law to win the presidency two months ago+, we shouldn't care then? The fact is Smollett has hurt all Americans by increasing and complicating racial tensions. The fact that he got away with it hurt us further still as it erodes our faith in the rule of law. The takeaway on all this is that it's not white privilege, just privilege. If you've got the dollars then you can get away with just about anything. See individual #1, who has been a cheat his whole life, been sued 3,500+times, breaks the law in countless ways and goes on to become President.
David Ricardo (Massachusetts)
"...acknowledging that race relations have already been ripped to shreds in the Trump era, is the real embarrassment." Come on, Charles, do you really believe that race relations were in good shape during the Obama era? The years 2009-2017 were not exactly a time of racial harmony.
Van (DM)
Stereotypes, not “archetypes.” There is an element of truth in most stereotypes. That is how stereotypes originate in the first place. How would Charles Blow interpret this situation if the actors were reversed, if a white “victim” had feigned an assault by two black men? This hoax could very well have triggered race riots, which is what usually happens after every police shooting of a black man, regardless of the circumstances. A ten-thousand-dollar fine is inadequate restitution for what Smollett did, especially because he never assumed responsibility for his malfeasance. The disposition of the O. J. Simpson case was an example of payback justice, just as is the resolution of the Smollett situation. That does not make it right. This is just another example of partial justice. Mr. Blow seems to be of the party that blacks, regardless of wrongdoing, should not be punished because they have been subjected to racism and much more significant historical injustice, especially through the agency of individuals like Trump. That is not how the law works. Mr. Blow comes across as a propagandist, not a journalist.
Joshua Resnek (Boston, MA)
Dismissing a staged racial attack and claiming others should be embarrassed rather than placing blame on the stager of the attack perfectly depicts the brave new world we are living in. At the moment this staged attack was reported, it spread like a wildfire across the nation, and the world, provoking the most egregious reactions, and most of it pointing to white America as the culprit. Dismissing it as nonsense, a prank that needn't be dealt with in the courts, is akin to declaring a justifiable homicide the right thing to do when an innocent has been murdered because of a prank. Would you suggest that we now treat all staged racist incidents a prank, and if we do, what then has been achieved except for the dumbing down of our core values, and the harsh reality that staged racial incidents are near to violent crimes against a society now super tuned to racism. Your column was predictable, that's the real embarrassment, your column.
Elizabeth Murray (Huntington WV)
I have struggled with the complexity of this story. This essay accurately expresses my thoughts. Much ado about a minor celebrity making self-serving claims, now turned into the crime of the century by the racists who defend the police even when the kill children on video. Like many, I resent Smollett for bringing these claims forward, but the overreaction was insane. Trump wanting to keep this in the news is crystal clear dog siren, not just dog whistle.
Ray Ozyjowski (Portland OR)
@Elizabeth Murray Trump keeping it alive? How about a lack of justice for the fraud perpetrated first by the medial for headlining the story, and secondly, the prosecutor who let him off with a laughable penalty? Dog siren? Another joke.
toddchow (Los Angeles)
It became a big deal because a celebrity of sorts concocted a racist-themed story and the press, chomping at the bit for narratives that advance this view blew it up. Who should be embarrassed? Jussie Smollett and the complicit press of course.
Frank Travaline (South Jersey)
Interesting take, Charles. The Mayor and Police Commissioner feel they were duped, and the evidence suggests that they indeed were. Their anger is righteous. As to what the media and the conservatives try to do with this is beyond my powers to discern. If you're crying out for moderation, I'm with you. If you're trying to make Smollett into a martyr, I'm not.
Duke of Zork (Upper Sandusky, OH)
I'm saving this column as a model of Bad Reasoning. It explains why people like Blow believed the Smollett charges without question. He honestly believed that if the Smollett charges were false, then all charges were false. Of course that's a ludicrous argument on Blow's part. All charges are POTENTIALLY false, yes. That's why we have trials. But that doesn't mean all charges are ACTUALLY false. Confusing the potential with the actual has led to Blow believing all charges blindly, mistakenly believing this to be the only alternative to believing none of them. Of course Smollett didn't invent fake hate crimes. There have been many, although most aren't this high profile. By Blow's own reasoning, he lost this argument at least as long ago as Tawana Brawley, if not earlier. That's why it's odd that the flaw in his reasoning hasn't occurred to him. Nothing Smollett has done has harmed the ability of genuine victims to seek recompense in court. The only thing that has been harmed here is the ability of the press to presuppose guilt and make money by trying such cases in public. But since the presumption of innocence used to be a liberal value, this really shouldn't be a problem.
sthomas1957 (Salt Lake City, UT)
"Trivial" is a Starbucks employee calling the police to remove four men who are not patronizing the business, but just occupying space that could go to otherwise paying customers. It's called "loitering" and most businesses and cities have rules and ordinances prohibiting it. Yet, the media built this up to a major scandal and vilified both Starbucks and the employee for racial insensitivity, not the four men who had committed the offense in the first place. Starbucks owner Howard Schultz proved himself to be manifestly unqualified to be president after buckling so easily to political correctness. The Jussie Smollett case is not "trivial," on the other hand. Felonies, not misdemeanors, were alleged.
HowardR (Brooklyn, NY)
If guilty (of lying), he committed what Trump supporters call a "process crime." No big deal, they say (about Stone, Cohen, et. al.).
Daniel (North Carolina)
The story became big not because of wails from conservatives but because Nancy Pelosi, Cory Booker, Joe Biden, Andrew Cuomo, and other politicians were eager to tweet about it and make it a national issue. Kamala Harris called it a "modern day lynching." Celebrities chimed in, including actress Ellen Page, who went on Colbert's show and blamed Vice President Mike Pence for inspiring the alleged attack. Who are the ones who drove "America's obsession with a trivial crime and entertainment story" and used it for their own advantage?
fred (washington, dc)
Funny how both sides excuse their own peccadilloes as minor - while finding the others' major. If it was a big deal when Smollett was thought to be attacked, then it's a big deal when lied about it.
Tom (Toronto)
Let's be honest - the last couple of weeks have been a fiasco for MSM, with CNN stating that reporters don't do investigation, and MSNBC needing a new business plan. This reminds me of 2016, where American media coverage was so polarized along partisan lines that the only clean reporting was by the left-wing UK Guardian.
Sarah A (Stamford, CT)
Mr. Blow...come on, now. Smollett happily reaped the benefits of the media spotlight, yet you espouse letting the story go now that the narrative's changed? The Chicago PD didn't arrest him for falsifying a police report from out of nowhere - the arrest is the result of Smollett making his "attack" national news. As to whether he actually falsified the report - what's the alternative? I know that's not the state's burden, but to pretend that it's somehow an open question whether the attack was at least partially falsified is disingenuous.
Coffee Bean (Java)
In this case you're trying to defend the indefensible.
Mike S. (Eugene, OR)
I never heard of Smollett before all of this. I did resent that the evening news devoted easily 15% of its time covering him. There were major stories with the now commonplace severe, "unprecedented" weather, 737 MAX, a crisis at the border, Brexit, and ISIS to name a few. The media needs to balance not both sides but decide a reasonable amount of time that should be devoted to a story. Smollett is guilty of wasting a lot of precious news time. My hoped for sentence: go away forever, Jussie.
NHolly (Atlanta, GA)
I don't fully agree with you, Mr. Blow. The liberal media and many Hollywood celebrities jumped on this without having all of the facts, I'm sure, in a rush to support all victims. Then Jussie Smollett invited the court of public opinion when he went on GMA with Robin Roberts. CPD had not choice but to investigate, publicly, or risk facing public scrutiny for not supporting victims. This is getting the attention Jussie wanted. I don't think that you can expect the conservatives you speak of, or anyone for that matter, who already mix race and criminality, to change. They already see the world through a bigoted lens, I don't think the battle to change their perception is worth fighting if they don't even see a problem with it. This affects, mainly, real victims and their advocates. To rectify the damage against them, there ought to be an admission of guilt or time served. It is not enough to say that what Jussie did was stupid. It was manipulative. Yet, he gets to have it both ways, brokering a deal and maintaining his innocence, which isn't fair to real victims, or to those people who are quick to support real victims. Lastly, if this truly happened, where is the outrage at his buddies for attacking him? If this is true, why not press charges against them?
Jerry Harris (Chicago)
Another example of media fascination was seen in a recent televised mayoral debate in Chicago. The first questions asked by a panel of journalist were all about Smollett. Not schools, jobs, racist police, housing -- no, Smollett got top billing. The distraction and shallowness is maddening.
Righty (America)
While the right uses false equivalencies like I eat popcorn on movie night, and Trump did make a comment, this article does nothing to help understand why the media and people are so obsessed with this story. Think about it for just a moment from the other side. Smollett represents a major portion of all the things Trump latched on to in order to anger and motivate his base. Jussie's little prank handed a gift wrapped present to the right. It is so easy for everyone, left or right, to despise everything Smollet has said, including all his self righteous lies about being gay, a minority, a liberal, anti-Trump, and a smug rich Hollywood "victim." If you are even slightly prone to Trump land conspiracy theories and lies, Jussie poured a can of gas on that fire. If the left wants to gain anything from this mess, they needed to come out very strong on Smollet, but instead we saw the same old wimpy vagueness the democrats are famous for.
Al Singer (Upstate NY)
Agree wholeheartedly, Charles. An example of the viral nature of the mass media. The narcissistic TV actor sure took advantage of of this. Sound familiar. The president does this every day.
pierre (vermont)
no major damage mr. blow? are you serious? perhaps you could address the $100k+ in police expenses and the unsolved crimes that came as part of this charade. this was a hate crime in itself - someone that makes a living calling out such crimes when they flow in the other direction should be more aware.
Thomas Martin (West Lafayette)
Mr. Blow's take on this is not so different from Titania McGrath's: “It is absolutely essential that we believe Jussie Smollett. If we don’t, other people who haven’t been attacked might not have the courage to come forward.”
novastorm (Kissimmee, FL)
The reason this has legs is that after the charges were dropped and the case sealed, Smollett immediately claimed his innocence on the steps of the courthouse. If he had pled no contest this would already be old news.
Samuel Owen (Athens, GA)
"It is an ugly truth that money and power make a mockery of our justice system. Some people sit in jails for weeks, months or even years waiting for a trial because they can’t afford bail. Others pay up and go home immediately. Some people must use overworked public defenders. Others can afford high-powered legal teams. Some people are not shown preferential treatment. Others are." Amen to that Mr. Blow! Our nation's 'sense' of ethics & morality have been on trial since its inception. Laws obviously do not a 'Conscious' make. The Framer's as imperfect as they were also knew that. That's why they enshrined Impeachment and the ability to amend the Constitution as a means outside of our supreme law to publicly examine how honorable and trustworthy are our 'High' federal public officials in their moral and ethical responsibilities to judge right from wrong and adapt to future public conditions as arise. Money & Power are mindless and too many of our governmental leaders suffer from a diminished capacity to meet that High Bar of their public oaths--Public Honor & Trust. Smollett like the rest of us are not publicly burdened or answerable for such lofty standards but only by laws. Our federal for sure and many lesser governments are cesspools of undignified and unjust leaders. That's understandable! But what is shameful is that there are no leaders with equal power willing to publicly Impeach them as is their Duty under the Highest Law-Constitutional.
Rational Thinker (USA)
As a business owner I can attest that the vast majority of claims of racism are imaginary. 2019 America for business is about the “bottom line.” Very very few in management are interested in discriminating against race - they are laser focused on making the most ROI possible - and couldn’t care less if their productive employees, their clients and customers are white, black, brown or chartreuse. As a law-abiding taxpayer, I can tell you we need more border walls because my city is overrun with illegal aliens bankrupting our hospitals, jails, courts, subsidized housing, and other government programs. If Mexico has strict immigration laws, how can immigration laws be racist ? The problem is that racism must be perceived to exist in massive amounts - otherwise those without the willingness to work hard, the unsuccessful and the criminal components of society will have lost a liberal popular excuse. My family and my friends - of all races - are working hard, obeying the law - and doing fine - racism just isn’t a big deal in the real world.
becke8 (palmyra, ny)
Why isn’t deliberately and falsely accusing a specific group of people of a hate crime grounds for charging Smollett with a hate crime?
Mare (Chicago)
Mr. Blow- this was hardly a “trivial” crime. By claiming a false hate crime, Smollett just made things that much worse for actual victims of hate crimes.
Blackmamba (Il)
@Mare Things have always been much worse for black victims of crime. What violent crime isn't hateful? George Stinney, Jr. and Emmett Till were both killed at 14 years old for imagined crimes against white women. Stinney was executed by the state of South Carolina. Till was murdered in Mississippi. See "The Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice" museumandmemorial.eji.org
mj (somewhere in the middle)
The same thing that drove Mr. Smollet is what drives Trump and his supporters--a crazy craven need for attention to their issues beyond anything and anyone else. A willingness to do anything to get the world eye to turn toward them. That is the real issue here.
rtj (Massachusetts)
@mj I'm with Chris Rock - What the hell was he thinking?
IGUANA (Pennington NJ)
It is not fair but that is the reality. The powerless minority is at an inherent disadvantage, any misstep will be magnified. If the issue previously was more apathy than denial, denial will now take a quantum leap forward thanks to Jussie Smollett's indiscretion. Smollett is left to ponder that in his "exoneration".
Bruce (Spokane WA)
"I believe a bigger problem than people not being believed is that they are believed, but no one cares what happened to them." Spot-on.
RC (Cambridge, UK)
The problem is that the establishment seems distinctively selective in deciding what is a "trivial," localized matter and what is a profound incident with broader ramifications for the nature of American society. So if some high school kids stand in the "wrong" place with the "wrong" expressions on their faces--well, that is an outrage that tells us everything we need to know about life in "Trump's America." Likewise with the Smollett story: when that first came out, it too was talked up as emblematic of "Trump's America." The idea that media only cared about this story when it began to look like a hoax is absurd--I did not fantasize the interview Smollett gave with ABC. It is only when the stories start to look like they do not support the dominant narrative that people like Blow decide that they are really just "trivial" matters.
Chinenye (Abuja)
@RC My thoughts exactly, when i first heard the story it was all over the place, all the Democrats politicians were tweeting their support for him, of course we were all outraged....then suddenly its a HOAX!!! and then silence from the Dems and backlash from the right...Jussie is an irresponsible young man that has exploited the already divided political space...he needs to just go away for now and I am surprised at Mr Blow, his article seems so biased...quite unlike him...
MB (W D.C.)
Prosecutorial discretion ——— also means having the discretion to prosecute....even the smallest charges....in order set a standard for the community. This is the failure in Smollett case.
expat london (london)
I think that the way that Smollett has gotten away with it is shameful. Rich people should be subject to the same laws as the rest of us. There shouldn't be special deals for celebrities. Just because he is black, he shouldn't be excused for what he has done. Hate crimes, homophobia and racism are real. To try to profit from them is disgusting. This just gives the Maga hat people more fodder to dismiss the very real problems we face.
NFC (Cambridge MA)
It is a Well Known Fact that the greatest threats to American safety and society are suppression of free speech on college campuses, the vast wave of violent crime committed by undocumented immigrants, racism and sexism directed at white men, and the terror faced by people who are afraid to compliment a woman or say "Merry Christmas." I know, because Fox News told me so.
LCS (Maine)
Welcome back Charles M. Blow, you have been missed. Yes, the media needs to be aware of the ways it is manipulated by implicit bias; the Smollett coverage is a good example. Thank you.
DJOHN (Oregon)
Another case of left wing bigotry. If this wasn't a hate crime, I don't what is. So here's a guy, guilty as can be whether you like it or not, and you're going "eh, what's the big deal. Anyone wearing a MAGA hat is a racist anyway." Isn't this what Charles Manson did in the 60's, trying to stir up a race war? What's the difference except Mr. Smollett was more concerned with making money out of it than any political message.
Stephen (Fishkill, NY)
By using the term "left wing" with the inference that the anyone who's doesn't support DT is of that ilk, aren't you doing exactly what you're accusing others?
Susan (San Francisco)
I reflect on the many fabricated stories white men and women have made up about transgressions and crimes by black people for the past 100+ years. Any accusation could ultimately bring violence, jail or death, true or not. How many black people suffered from these tales? Too many to know or count. Let’s not obsess over Mr. Smollett. His life and career are hurt, but no one person suffered otherwise. We have bigger issues to resolve in our country than this. Move on, folks.
Tim (Tri Cities)
@Susan: There was nothing right about the many fabricated stories white men and women made up about crimes by black people. Wrong is wrong no matter who did it. That doesn't make what Smollett did right or excusable. Everyone suffers from what Smollett did, i think particularly blacks, and any other persons who will now be less likely to be believed when they really are attacked.
Sunny (Virginia)
@Susan - yes, that's great. I think letting Jussie off the hook b/c white people have lied about black people in the past is just a peachy idea.
B.Sharp (Cinciknnati)
This is a thoughtful and complex column . Yes, in the end Smollett did hurt himself by allegedly falsifying this attack story, which is ridiculous and upsetting . By doing so he did hurt the black community and provided ammunition for trump . Time to let it go because the president in lying to his country every single moment of his waking hours. Time to move on to the upcoming election to defeat this president who has accomplished nothing so far.
James Ricciardi (Panama, Panama)
Trump is ripping asunder all the progress in this country that has occured since LBJ signed the civil rights, voting rights and fair housing acts and the law which prohibits discrimination in legal immigration based on race, religion or country of origin. It took 100 years after Lincoln's assassination to pass those laws. Now 50 years after LBJ Trump is commiting a new kind of political assassination. Trump needs no reasons.
Dan (Pittsburgh,PA)
All media sensationalize stories, and when it is white on black, it goes into hyperspace. A large majority of these high profile cases have due process with an outcome of guilty or innocent. In this case, there wasn't due process. He was indicted on 16 felony charges, and to have a nothing outcome either way. I think it should be looked at. If Smollet is innocent like he claims, he should have wanted a trial to clear any cloud that will follow him the rest of his life. The District Attorney's office now looks corrupt, and can not be trusted.
hannstv (dallas)
It wasn't conservatives that made the "attack" on Jussie a national issue. It wasn't conservatives that pushed the "attack" on Jussie onto the front page of most news sites. If you push a narrative that would seem to be false are you surprised that there is a push back?
Rebecca (San Diego)
Good job, Charles! " . . .They can paint our condemnation of the white supremacy we see resurging all around us as mere callous manipulation, which is the accusation against Smollett." We're losing sight of the important truth that Smollett's story was credible at first telling. He didn't invent Hate Crimes. Don't blame those who believed him! So, who actually benefits from turning the legal case into what it has become? Only one group comes to mind and it doesn't include Smollett himself or communities of color. Those who benefit by projecting all pathology onto Smollett are those who benefit in a society of White Institutionalized Privilege. They're grasping at any exploitable evidence to protect their own power while trampling the progress of Social Justice. I wish I could believe it's their death rattle, but I'm pretty sure it's not. They'll do anything . . . now that's pathology.
Ryan (Midwest)
Let's not forget that Smollett was told the police arrested two suspects and was asked if he'd testify against them. He didn't hesitate to say "yes". This was before he knew the two were his buddies. So Smollett was willing to wrongly accuse two innocent people and ruin their lives in order to keep his hoax alive. Is this the guy you really want to fight this battle over, Charles?
Sunny (Virginia)
@Ryan Great point! I hadn't thought of that.
Sarah A (Stamford, CT)
A totally bizarre hill to die on.
Douglas (Minnesota)
>>> "But it was just the kind of story that he and conservatives love, one that mixes race, criminality and culture. They need desperately to find emblems of minority pathology to justify their calloused, draconian approach to minority issues." Yes, and let's be crystal clear about why the right wingers love and need this: it's because the most bigoted and reactionary elements of white society absolutely eat this stuff up. They adore it. They luxuriate in it. To use an aging idiom of American English, they dine out on incidents like this for months and years. The "conservative" politicians and media figures who promote stories like this do so because they are meat for the savage elements they must feed to maintain their base. It doesn't get much uglier than this.
Tim (Tri Cities)
@Douglas. Where as when it first happened, it was just the kind of story the liberal left wing media love, one that mixes race, criminality and culture. They, the media needed to desperately find emblems of race, white supremacy and pathology to justify their draconian approach to social justice issues. See how easy that was?
Wendy Winslow (Winnipeg, Canada)
It’s a bit like a tempest in a teapot. But - who exactly is benefitting from all this extended media fuss ???'
Steven McCain (New York)
I love the way New Zealand handled the monster who killed all of does people in The Mosque. We could learn a lot from them and maybe we need to. New Zealand did its best to give the killer no publicity. I wish we could do the same with our nut cases. The Mueller barrage of two years and now The Smollets Road Show is just becoming too much to absorb daily. Feeding Trump's and Smollett's need to been seen because of their fragile egos have reached saturation. Following clowns around should be suspended for at least a few days.
Ak (Bklyn)
This certainly fits into the GOP playbook. It’s been done to me and I was flabbergasted that they actually try to pretend their racism doesn’t exist because of one persons misdeeds.
Tim (Tri Cities)
@Ak. I know, right, its part of the GOP long game. They got Smollett to fabricate his story just so that when it all blew up on him the GOP and its race baiting syncopates could scream about how this was a hoax and how no one should be believed when they allege a race hate crime.
Willis (Georgia)
Trump wants the FBI to investigate Smollett's case, but he has ranted and raved and ignored all the lies he himself has told and smeared the FBI since he came into office. Trump plays the "victim" card better than anyone, non-stop.
Brian (Ohio)
No, everyone wonders who's on the down low with enough pull to make this happen.
Bronzi (Earth)
I find it interesting how OUTRAGED Chicago’s Mayor, Police Chief and Prosecuter are over this, however the hiding of a tape showing Chicago police was hidden for over a year. Not the same outrage over the murder of a black man. Interesting how all sides are reacting. Also, I’m not pro Jussie. Something stinks here on both sides and the State knew something they didn’t want to come out—-never the crime, but the coverup. And the 16 felony counts by grand jury? I’ve been on a state grand jury (ugh) for 26 weeks, but the burden of proof is very low ( we “think” there may be a crime). Simple majority gives allows charging. Overkill for sure. Hope we find out the “truth at some point, but interesting when the Defense asked for sealing of records, Prosecution is reported to have remained silent, also known as negative consent. Fish rots from the head.
Mur (USA)
perfect reasoning, I agree totally and finally a point which is rarely touched was touched: poor is and should be the unifying adjective and substantive for the discriminated and socially abused. Yes this is not sufficient to define the discriminated against, jews are because their race/religion, black for their color and so on. But the majority of the victims of this vicious crime are the poor and a war (metaphorically) between poor is what has always being used to keep poor subdued. Poor cannot afford a good lawyer, rich black men can and so can rich Jews or Latinos. Italians were the poor at the beginning of the century and they were heavily discriminated but once they economic status improved the discrimination ceased. Poor is what society creates and a war between poor is the best way to keep peace among the rich and powerful.
Bookworm8571 (North Dakota)
I always found it suspicious that two white guys in MAGA hats would even know who Jussie Smollett is much less bother to go after him on one of the coldest nights of the year. Do people have any idea how cold it was in the Midwest around that time? Even criminals probably stayed indoors. This isn’t the crime of the century and he was never going to do any jail time for filing a false police report, if that is what he did. On the other hand, it is also far from the first instance in the last few years when someone claimed to be a victim of a hate crime, everyone jumped on the bandwagon and condemned the toxic culture of white supremacy and the crime all turned out to be a big fat lie. That doesn’t mean there aren’t real hate crimes that have been committed or that crimes shouldn’t be investigated and appropriately punished. However, it might make sense to wait for all the facts next time and look at these stories with a bit of skepticism. The national media, the New York Times in particular, blows these stories up and covers them exhaustively. This particular story didn’t turn out the way that some people might have been hoping it would.
Harold Johnson (Palermo)
The valuable line in this piece follows: "Folks, what you are seeing is a media being bullied into bending over backward to placate the people who endlessly accuse them of bias." The moral then is for the press to stop that effort to explain and to placate, just report the news and move on. The same goes for the politicians that Trump and the Republicans attack. Pay as little attention as possible, dismiss whatever they are huffing about and with humor if possible, and then move on. Don't explain. Don't complain. Don't let them change the subject.
Arturo (VA)
Mr. Blow’s take is so wrong I could write a book about it. Smollet DID create this hoax, it is not alleged, there is even video of his accomplices buying the fake rope and hats. Smollet is not actually that wealthy or powerful (he certainly was not a household name before this incident). Ironically, if he was very wealthy or powerful, I think people would be forgiving about him not going to trial. This case is absurd because his race is getting him off; the CPD has no desire to prosecute a high profile (black) man. Now everyone will say “finally, it’s been happening to white people for decades”. Which is true! But that doesn’t make it right. And you are simply making people the scales of justice tipping again towards injustice, just for a different group of people.
somsai (colorado)
In answer to the question that is the title, "Who Should Be Embarrassed?" the media should. This is not an isolated incident, and it is not about Trump. This Smollett thing resonated because it was so similar to the Covington kids, and other incidents which had nothing to do with race, and everything to do with wealthy SJWs making a big stink, and it involves sour grapes over losing an election. A Maga hat is the hat of the other party, so what. Half the voters in America Voted for Trump, instead of vilifying them over a hat and insinuating their racism, maybe we could offer better ideas and policies.
IlliniWatcher (Dallas)
Bingo, Mr. B. If conservatives want to complain about liars, let them start with the current occupant of The White House and work downward from there. How many GOP operatives have been successfully charged with crimes, again?
Tim (Tri Cities)
@IlliniWatcher. You are absolutely correct. Lets give a pass to everyone who tells a lie until Trump is gone.
Arnoldo (Miranda)
This incident was about a famous, well-off person who brought unnecessary attention to himself. He needs to be held accountable for his narcissistic actions. Race shouldn't even come up in this debate since it was solely an irresponsible individual committing a crime.
Javaforce (California)
I think Smollett's case was an example of how the rule of law works in this country. I'm no lawyer but it seems like Smollett's case represented how the legal process works. He was accused of lying of lying and committing a crime. He went to trial and was found to be not guilty by the courts.Yet we have a President who could care less about the rule of law if he even knows what it is.
Tim (Tri Cities)
@Javaforce - hate to break it to you, but Smollett never went to trial and was not found "not guilty." Charges were dismissed. I'd suggest getting your facts straight before you start pontificating about Trump. And while we are at it, give me some examples of how Trump has violated the rule of law?
Thomas Martin (West Lafayette)
@Javaforce "He went to trial and was found to be not guilty by the courts." I must have missed the NYT article about that trial. When did that trial take place?
Seinstein (Jerusalem)
Nowhere, and no "why," in this written voice of outrage is the idea, word, concept of "accountability," noted. For what was done by... Reported by... Described by...A missing process among many, if not most policymakers. Of all parties. At all levels. Genders. Faux-colorations of ranges of hues. As well as amongst mantrafying-media folk. Further clarification would be appreciated to discern between Facts, Fictions, Fantasies and "alts;" as "goulashing of ALL of them continues: "Smollett’s greatest offense in this regard was not lying, if indeed he did,..." He didn't...? None of this happened? Not in this way; IT was in THAT way. In what way is "homogenizing" racist "white people," as a factual explanation, of what is little more than a faux-description, of help? To whom?
marksjc (San Jose)
Those who have "decided" the events and intent of this incident have been influenced by the emotions on both sides, I've felt them, but cannot judge facts when advocated and amplified by both sides. Yet the vindictiveness of the CPD with their selective leaks (not evidence) and grand-jury -standing charges were a beacon of power and oppression saying "No n... will make a fool of us!" Rather than illuminated truth I saw torches held and burning crosses casting false light. For people of integrity or rather aspire to it, know that while priceless, its value to society goes up as injustice piles body on body, bullet by bullet. Today, integrity is scarce, since it's rarely visible and certainly not found on Fox, among the Executive branch political class, the men of the elite Senate majority, or the House GOP adolescents and long-time racists newly bloomed. I see 4 Supreme Court justices with Integrety with a Chief struggling to reclaim it: do we acquiesce to consistency of racist words and actions accented by worn translucent heritage cotton sheets? Fox warning of race riots should wake those with Integrity to organize, confront sponsors,and submit shareholder resolutions. Deadly racial violence has already killed and harmed Americans and the perpetrators have been white men. Integrity requires acceptance of the truth, and I will stand against the racist haters as my forbears did 160 years ago transporting and protecting their newly free African American neighbors.
Ian (London England)
Mr Blow comments that "the media is far more interested in the hoax angle to this story than they ever were about the alleged hate crime" and that "the debunking of Smollett’s claim had gotten far more coverage than the initial claim." So what? Mr Smollett's story unraveled very quickly but the attempted cover-up has run and run. Smollett has continued to declare that he spoke the truth (and has used the always suspicious defense that "I have a family/daughter/son, so I would never lie") but very few people believe him. If he was attacked the attackers are still out there and the police are derelict in their duty. But almost nobody believes he was attacked. Mr Blow is defending the indefensible. What is making this story run and run is the left wing media trying to blame Trump for everything. If Smollett had been attacked, people would have had sympathy for him. By crying wolf and using his public platform to lie again about the lies he told Smollett makes it easier for people to doubt the next time a black or gay celebrity says they have been attacked. A retraction and apology (and financial restitution for the wasted police time) from Smollett are what is needed, not criticism of Trump supporters by NYT columnists.
Miss B (Atlanta)
Welcome back, Mr. Blow. Your voice has been sorely missed!
Tourbillon (Sierras)
Like Blow, I demand evidence (as opposed to anecdotes). So I challenge his assertion that race relations have been "ripped to shreds" with a demand for evidence that supports this hyperbolic allegation and explains the allegation in the face of record low black unemployment, the Republican's larger share of the black vote in 2016 over 2012, and the highly public endorsements Trump has received from prominent blacks.
RK (Long Island, NY)
Trump has an unhealthy penchant for lashing out at African Americans or belittling them. Trump took out ads against the young men accused in the Central Park jogger case. He latched ontothe birther lie and went after Obama. He went after Colin Kaepernick and others who refused to stand during the national anthem. He called Omarosa Manigault Newman a dog after she was was fired. Trump went after reports April Ryan and Yamiche Alcindor for asking questions he didn't like. Now he's going after Smollett, though he should be worrying about more important things than that. On the other hand,there have been numerous cases of black men being blamed for rape and other crimes that they did not commit, ruining their lives for years or some losing their lives. There was a case just last year of a white woman who falsely accused two black football players and both were expelled from college. No tweets from Trump about that. No surprise there. Racism, Trump's spokespersons will readily tell you, has nothing to do with his actions. The truth, of course, is just the opposite.
schbrg (dallas, texas)
What made the case gain so much attention was its very improbability: That a young celebrity was attacked at 2 or so in the morning, with wind chill factors around 20 degrees below zero, by 2 men who yelled "This is Maga country" in one of Chicago's toniest neighborhoods, had a clotheline noose put on him, that he then walked back to his apartment, and on and on. The developments after are nearly as sensational: the non-recusal recusal, the dropping of the charges, Mr. Smollett's continued insistence on his innocence, the interview on Today show where his lawyer insinuated that the attackers wore whiteface....And finally, Chris Rock on the Image awards poking fun at Mr. Smollett. And this is just a minor list of points about this case that make more interesting than any drama now on tv or netflix.
Peter (New York)
It seems like Blow is blaming conservatives for making this a big story. This was national news with presidential candidates and people all around the country blaming Trump voters broadly for violence that was a hoax. I feel like they had a right to be angry that the media was so quick to jump on an obviously unbelievable story in the first place and then have the charges dropped against someone who deserves to be punished for helping divide he county further with this ludicrous hoax, one of the worst since Tawana Brawley.
Marshall E. Schwartz (Oakland CA)
I believe Mr. Blow's views on the fact that the fraud has drawn more media attention than did the original pseudo-assault are way off the mark. It's simply a case of man-bites-dog vs. dog-bites-man. As the story was originally told, it was a dog-bites-man event, the far from uncommon event of anti-black bigotry and hatred. It was a story that would have received no media coverage whatsoever -- the norm for dog-bites-man cases -- if the self-declared victim were not a celebrity. But when we instead are presented with a man-bites-dog invention, of course it gets wider attention. That, for better or worse, is the long-established response when, figuratively, a man bites a dog.
Philo (Scarsdale NY)
I had very mixed feelings when as I read through your column. Not sure if you were making your case - but I underestimated your great skill in making your arguments. As I read towards the middle - I thought - ahhh thats it i.e " It is an ugly truth that money and power make a mockery of our justice system.: and then I read on to "I believe a bigger problem than people not being believed is that they are believed, but no one cares what happened to them." and I thought - YES! But then I came to the entire Smollett fiascos real meaning, because watching Fox or reading any of the Murdock publications this is what it boils down to : "Smollett’s greatest offense in this regard was not lying, if indeed he did, but lying about white people who support a racist in the White House." And that folks is the why this is still in the papers ( and I am a white middle aged guy in the burbs )
Yeah (Chicago)
Allows people of bad faith to allege all hate crimes are made up, yes, after attempting to inflame passions over a hate crime: that’s why the alleged acts of Smollett are a serious crime. It had broad social implications coming and going. That said, the only essential aspect of the deal reached is an admission of wrongdoing If the case was so weak that the States Attorney couldn’t extract an apology, then how come it was brought to a Grand Jury and 15 felony indictments returned? Something isn’t right.
Mr Darcy (Flyover country)
The Smollett case highlights some interesting points about America: 1. The demand for bigots exceeds the supply. Sometimes you have to hire actors to play them. 2. The basis for any disparity in justice has more to do with class and income than race. This will be hard for those profiting from racial grievance to accept. 3. Americans are becoming more and more skeptical of unsupported accusations. The initial reaction will be more accusations with more spectacular claims.
Kanaka (Sunny South Florida)
I don't know if a MAGA person brutalized Mr. Smollett or not. I do know that many, many of them howled in indignation and brayed with glee when it was reported that it may allegedly had been a hoax. Before that? Crickets.
Lin (Chicago)
@Kanaka Yeah not so much. Tons of media and celebrity and just general social media attention garnered by a claim that sounded specious at best from the get go. Unless you are talking about our white supremacist president and henchmen, in which case, sure.
Tod L (USA)
@Kanaka No "Maga person" assaulted ANYONE, in fact as we've seen lately they are usually the victim. Ask the COvington Catholic kids. Why shouldn't they howl with indignation, we're being lied about daily. Daily, by twits and liars like you. It's NOT allegedly... smollet lied, paid the two brothers. Only a corrupt leftist, racist DA let him off. It's clear, and it's just that simple I'll accept your apology to all "MAGA People" from "people" like you
asdfj (NY)
@Kanaka I suppose Trump himself doesn't count as "a MAGA person?" "Trump condemns ‘horrible’ attack on ‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett, January 31, 2019"
Ian MacFarlane (Philadelphia)
Without any exaggeration and well before our nation's founding, human injustice has always been a literal bloodstain on not only our culture, but also every culture that has ever existed. While there are many so called reasons for the existence of involuntary human bondage, the exploitation of a human being for another's benefit is entwined with the roots in every case. The capture, enslavement and sale of humans of any skin shade through whatever means has been with humanity since club carrying men discovered they were stronger than women and applied that enlightenment to other men as well. African kings, warlords or simply any other men who sought profit from the trade of their fellow humans have, like others throughout history, found that profit as money, arms, beads and shiny objects. Skin color, at least in the eyes of those who need or desire generalizations, is the easiest and most direct way to identify what is no more than an exploitable trophy to a hunter. Arrogance, always steeped in fear and insecurity, allows thoughtless, inconsiderate people motivated by profit, to treat their fellow humans as wild animals to be captured, enslaved and exploited. Regardless skin color, exploitation of other life forms has been with some among us for the millenia we have been standing upright. Mr Smollett and his enablers are a contemporary example of this profitable psychological inbreeding. No more, no less and we all know it.
Cynical Jack (Washington DC)
"meaningless in the grand scheme of things" You don't know your country very well, nor human psychology. Anecdotes are very powerful, more powerful than they should be, perhaps. This particular anecdote is made even more powerful by the fact that the hoaxer got away with it.
Nick (NY)
Thanks for this piece and welcome back.
JB (Weston CT)
Who should be embarrassed? Easy. Everyone who bought Jussie Smollett’s story hook, line and sinker. That includes Democratic presidential candidates and reporters who didn’t even bother with using “alleged” when recounting the awful things that Mr. Smollett experienced. Stories like this just reinforce the fact that for many it is the narrative that is important, not facts.
Mark Thomason (Clawson, MI)
"a trivial crime and entertainment story" No, it is not trivial. If the accusations had been true, Blow would not have considered that to be trivial. Felonies are not trivial. Government corruption is not trivial, and this has that appearance. The false claims were made for the very non-trivial purpose of rousing hate and fear, and having a political impact.
John Egan (Wyoming)
You could not be more wrong, Mr. Blow. I am a lifelong, card-carrying progressive. I have fought against racism for decades. I have also been the target of homophobia all my life. And I was nearly killed, once, because of it. It is far, far more than just a minor story. Not only did Smollett's actions negatively impact instances of real racism and homophobia, but the reaction of the left towards Smollett's supposed attackers was immediate, virulent, and totalizing. Of course, the right is going to run with it now, because the left ran with it before the electronic ink was even dry on their screens. And by trying to flip the issue to one of endemic racism in America, you only make things worse. You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but you will do little to move the needle of public opinion by this article.
Kat Cooper (Maryland)
@John Egan Completely agree with John Egan. I have spent most of my career working on HIV/AIDS drugs clinical trials. The bias and outright hate that the LGBTQ community have suffered and continue to suffer is not minor. The fact that Mr. Smollett is black is relevant and can in fact (at least I believe) make things worse in this very tricky race conversation that we are trying to have in the US. I am surprised that Mr. Blow would push his narrative.
lpngleo (new york)
@John Egan couldn't agree more. But, no one mentions that in my 79 years, I have never seen race relations hit it's low point as it did during President Obama’s reign. He fomented discord during his entire 8 years. As Shelby Steele is fond of saying, we blacks can go anywhere and do anything our hearts desire.
Kimbo (NJ)
Thank you, John. I believe many, many people agree with you...from all directions of political ways of thinking.
John (LINY)
I think another point to be noted is the accused brothers probably didn’t understand the gravity of the act. The Nigerian brothers didn’t really understand racism as practiced in the US. To them it was something of a prank.
RVC (NYC)
I think you can simultaneously be angry about racism and angry at people who make up lies about racist attacks -- because they are making true victims of hate crimes less likely to be believed. It's similar to being angry about rape culture and also angry when someone makes a false rape claim, in the process making true victims less likely to be believed. What is upsetting about Smollett was that his behavior makes real victims of hate crimes less likely to be believed. The narcissism of that is hard to forgive because it comes at the cost of the powerless, not the powerful.
Melbourne Town (Melbourne, Australia)
It is worth noting that in his deposition in the Sandy Hook case, Alex Jones cites this story repeatedly as justification for his Sandy Hook denial. This story is not just being used to question all allegations of racism, it is being used by the right to justify disbelieving anything they don't like.
trudds (sierra madre, CA)
Mr. Smollett broke the law to get a raise. He should have done it the good old fashioned way, ripping off poor people. Less cynically, it effects everyone who needs society and the law to listen to them when they become victims of hatred. Typically anyone else in this situation wouldn't do much of any time in jail but rarely are they allowed to walk away still claiming innocence. I don't need nor deserve an apology from Mr. Smollett, but many people do. That might be a nice way to show a lesson of significance leaned, and a chance to reclaim some good will.
Erica (Miami)
Thanks Mr. Blow. You voiced things I have been unable to articulate. I was first baffled and then wholly disgusted by the response to this - in the grand scheme of things- trivial case. I was amazed at how easily everyone including the Police Chief and prosecutor jumped on TV to be interviewed and condemn Smollett without a trial having been conducted. Everybody wanted their outrage publicly expressed in the media sadly for political mileage. Quite frankly after the LaQuan McDonald fiasco I think the Chicago police and the Mayor's behavior reeked of grandstanding. Their protestations rung hollow. Profoundly misdirected and disingenuous. If they had shown half the outrage and put in half the effort and funds into the McDonald case - and too many similar cases in Chicago- one might be able to bear listening to them. Rahm and DJT in agreement? What a joke.
Bernardo Izaguirre MD (San Juan , Puerto Rico)
Republicans and Trump supporters are very good at manufacturing scandals and crises . Remember the email scandal . That minor trespassing of the norms that are expected in the handling of government internal information may be the reason Hillary lost the election . The result is the election of a totally unqualified denizen of reality TV as President . Of course they should not have dropped the Jussie Smollett charges . It was not a good idea . The worst part of it is the use Trump and his supporters are doing with what is admittedly a bad prosecutorial decision . The President is not solving crises . He is creating crises . He is not trying to bring us together . He is sowing divisions . That is the real scandal .
ws (köln)
@Bernardo Izaguirre MD In one point I strongly disagree: When it comes to reality TV Mr. Trump is one of the most qualified denizen who has ever lived on this planet. Therefore he is just truly disappointed to miss one of the greatest reality show he ever could have benefited from - the "Jussie Smolett Court Room Show". You don´t believe can´t imagine? A true master of reality shows like Mr. Trump doesn´t need a scriptwriter to trigger such story in front of his eyes: "This is the true story of a man who started to incriminate innocent harmless MAGA supporters and ended up as mendacious criminal found guilty by a true US (mixed), jury sentenced by a US judge, in a true US court house, in "the city of carnage" (!) for undeniable blatant lies and malicious crimes. Racist misdeeds against whites proven by US justice doing it´s job - brought to you live and in colour by your favourite RW TV broadcaster each day a week. A reality TV story as real as it could be. What an opportunity! Can it be better than this? All gone because some guy Chicago had got after 2 months that this was going to happen soon and had realized that he had to stop his all-foaming justice crew who was running blindly into this trap on the let it be law trail inescapabably triggered by Mr. "Too clever Jussie" immediately somehow. Now Mr. Trump is just fuming and tweeting - angry that somebody stopped this show before this outstanding pre-election present could be handed over to him. Understandable
ws (köln)
@ws Correction: This was no "guy in Chicago" as I had assumed first. It had been an experienced "lady in Chicago", Ms Tchen, formerly specialised on litigation, then White house staff and American Bar Association. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tina_Tchen When seasoned professionals like this are at work something is to expect. Something like what had happened and most of all participants couldn´t understand. So I take a bow of respect in general. Bu, but, but - as always when "waxy" civil law lawyers go astray in some unknown fields of criminal law: Not tough enough: The fine should have been one "o" higher in the end! Minimum. Remember: Sentencing is one the basics to learn at first criminal law stage in the first days at county court. You will never forget, even after 40 years doing all kind of other things except practising ordinary criminal law. Next time better!! (Oh sorry, young American law trainees don´t have to do the complete "practical merry-go round" of civil litigation stage, criminal law stage, administration stage, lawyer stage, before they can get admitted as lawyers. They should do too.)
Daniel A. Greenbaum (New York)
Smollett took advantage of the climate created by Trump to get himself some publicity and more money. I was out of the country when the Smollett story first broke. CNN certainly captured, endlessly, the awfulness of what purportedly happened to him.
Eben (Spinoza)
The basic point here that Mr Blow makes is that that focuses on the Smollet case is like focusing on an hangnail when the patient is dying of cancer. It's ridiculous. And the consent harping by right-wing media on this trivial media event (probably hoax), when the true structural problems of the economy, the environment, and the history of a corrupted system that is truly destroying the country is despicable. Neil Postman in "Amusing Ourselves to Death" warned in the early '80s about that the fusion of politics and entertainment would damage our country. Orwell imagined the corruption of language, but he missed the corruption of attention.
Tod L (USA)
@Eben Felonies are not "trivial" Hundreds of expensive man hours investigating yet ANOTHER hate crimes hoax. Smollet should be in jail
Katalina (Austin, TX)
@Eben Smollet like Trump uses the trivial to conflate the story and thank you Eben for bringing in Postman in particular with our stupid fusion of politics and entertainment (we're all at the county fair or rodeo or watching tv now) and Orwell to underline the "corruption of language." The other most interesting: the corruption of attention.
Eben (Spinoza)
@Tod L I didn't say a that a felony is trivial. I said that the media event is trivial. With respect to "ANOTHER hate crimes hoax" here are some relevant stats from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino: an estimated 21,000 hate crime cases between 2016 and 2018, fewer than 50 reports were found to be false. (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/22/us/fake-hate-crimes.html) The point Mr Blow made is that the media attention devoted to this case obscures the larger, and far more damaging reality. That a 2-bit actor comes up with some attention grabbing hoax (I'll grant you it looks like that) is despicable. That a person of money and connections gets a slap on the wrist is altogether predictable. If if you think that THIS event is key to understanding the disintegration of the rule of law, you haven't been paying attention to what's been going on since Ronald Reagan engineered the end of the the FCC "Fairness Doctrine," Bill Clinton consented to the relaxation of media industry anti-trust rules, and the rise of the surveillance economy by advertising tech wiped out journalism in lieu of anything that stimulates the fear centers.
James (Virginia)
"The major damage was the damage Smollett did to his own career and reputation." "None of this is of any real consequence beyond the local authorities and Smollett himself." The fact that Charles Blow is writing this column at all is a sign that he does not believe his own words. The damage that Smollett did was not mostly to himself, it was to the poor, black and brown victims of actual hate crimes who are now less likely to come forward and less likely to receive justice in America. Perhaps some damage was also done to the hawks of identity politics who are obsessed with stoking racial division in this country, creating the void of perfect victimhood that Jussie Smollett exploited for selfish gain. The real consequence is not just for the local authorities and Smollett himself, it is for the legitimacy of the entire justice system. A privileged man is granted special treatment and you are not just silent but instead *supportive* because the privileged is a member of your tribe? Because even if Smollett criminally deceived others for self-gain, it was a fine lie in service of your preferred narrative? If a well-connected white man had faked a hate crime, accusing some local young black men in Chicago of racist violence, how would you feel about him walking after some community service with a glimmering representation in the media? You'd probably feel like the average white working class voter in America, who might just hold their nose and vote for Trump again in 2020.
Disillusioned (NJ)
Amazingly, some of the comments support your thesis. For weeks I have asked my wife why is the Smollett story still all over the news, particularly on Fox? Why is it important? Because he is a celebrity and they all live under a microscope? No, the story lingers, because it allows Whites the fantasy that the only racism is Black racism towards Whites. The story is low fruit for conservative propaganda. Racism, and hatred, towards Blacks, Latinos, Muslims, and members of the LGBTQ community, is the most significant issue in America, the single most important factor creating political polarization. Until we address this issue, we will not be able to confront any of the myriad of other problems facing America.
DrummerGirl (Orlando)
The issue here is that had this hoax continued, liberal media would have asked for the perpetrator’s head on a silver platter. It’s quite possible that 2 innocent people would have been falsely accused and convicted all the the name of “hate”. And while I do believe that there are real issues out there that deserve our attention, creating a situation where through lies and deceit, false accusations arise to cause harm to a specific group is counterproductive. All groups, liberal and conservatives alike should be held to the same rules but sadly that’s not what’s happening. Had something like this happened on the Conservative side of the political spectrum, rest assured that the Hollywood Liberals would have been appalled at charges just being dropped and would have pushed for an in depth investigation by everyone on the planet. So let’s not pretend that what Jussie did was just “tell police a lie”. He created a situation for hate to rise in many groups. He played a dangerous game and lost. I was a fan of his and watched his tv show but I’ve now lost a ton of respect for this young man. He thinks he was exonerated and he wasn’t and hasn’t taken responsibility for his actions. I wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors and I hope that one day, he realizes what he did was wrong and comes clean. Either way, I don’t think his career will be the same.
Des Johnson (Forest Hills NY)
The Smollett story is largely a product of the same people who bring us "March Madness." Ball games are entertaining; so is gossip; so are all kinds of tragedy, including rape, murder, deaths on the roads, deaths in fires etc: voyeurism and schadenfreude. We have stuff thrown at us at all hours unless we switch off, or pay a premium for commercial-free stuff. Analyzing the Smollett case is at least premature; at worst it's collusion with the money-making machines of consumerism and advertising.
Dolly Patterson (Silicon Valley)
I am almost positive that Smollet is severely mentally ill. I grew up w John Hinckley and followed his case and believe it was an accurate call. I read tonight that Jessie Jackson is asking pastor's to come together for a prayer service for Smollett.....Jackson own son has been hospitalized and suffered enormously mentally and I suspect this is one of the reason Jessie Jackson wants to hold this service. Smollett's life will never be the same. He will have a hard time finding a job, any job, but particularly on in Acting.
rebecca1048 (Iowa)
@Dolly Patterson This was my first reaction, as the case didn’t make sense.
Mary (wilmington del)
Smollet is a less than brilliant young man that has become a media pawn being used on both sides to reinforce a narrative that is far more nuanced than anybody wants to admit. Their are many intersections here; race, class, bigotry, politics, and Chicago's own well known corrupt history. All of these need to be kept in perspective when evaluating this story. At this point the way certain media outlets are continuing to run with this nonsense speaks more to those media outlets than any search for truth. They are chasing clicks and dollars, definitely not truth.
Tom (Baltimore, MD)
The way I see it, this two bit actor on the downswing conceived this caper (complete with Hollywood style street theatre), set it in motion, and thus created the big, holy mess in order to resurrect a flagging career. He knew well that reporting himself as the victim of a sensational "hate crime" would garner lots of press, teeing up a big story, and wow it certainly did. Conservative media are kicking the can down the road, but Jussie Smollett is the one who started the thing rolling. What do you expect them to do when they are thrown red meat like this, take a pass? I surely hope that no permanent damage is done to the interests of legitimate victims of hate crimes as a result of this preposterous affair.
Jonathan Katz (St. Louis)
@Tom "kicking the can down the road" is a way of saying postponing the reckoning. I don't think that is what you mean to say, which is probably "making a big deal of this".
Kevin K (Connecticut)
Within a breath of "complete exoneration" on every conceivable high crime and misdemeanor, another tabloid event has captured the cable universe. The circus has many rings and each and every cableista blovator must lash the story again and again and again..... The fault lies with the 24/7 imperatives , inescapable, relentless, and profitable.
Diane
“I believe a bigger problem than people not being believed is that they are believed, but no one cares what happened to them.” Mr. Blow, this is the real heart of the matter. Thank you.
NM (NY)
Hate crimes, be they over race, sexual orientation (this allegation implied both), or any other identity, are real and deadly serious - but so, too, should be the responsibility of making any such charges. Chicago’s Police Chief was right to fault Smollet for using noose imagery in vain. And this is not from any far right or prejudiced perspective. I can’t be the only one who had wanted to believe Jussie - even though his refusal to turn over his phone was dubious, even though he sounded less than indignant about his honesty being questioned, even though it wasn’t credible how certain he said he was that a still photo of two individuals was of his assailants. I had even wanted to believe his corollary story of having received a threatening letter. The notion of an individual coopting victim hood from a hate crime was just too horrific to entertain. But the facade quickly fell apart. The check issued to his paid participants was indisputable. Smollet was not as good an actor as his career would suggest. He had wasted law enforcement resources, manipulated public sentiment, and treated social pathologies self indulgently. Frankly, community service and a few thousand dollars aren’t going to compensate for his wrongdoing.
Robert Earnest (ohio)
Jussie did the right thing in bringing media attention to racism and homophobia. The fact that it was all an act was because he is an actor; he did what he did best. And finally, the ends always justify the means; especially when trying to eradicate hate.
tomc (new hampshire)
I agree with the drift of Mr. Blow's thinking here...but my feeling is that, more than 400 years into our experience as a country, any attempt to fan the flames of racial injustice is inexcusable. If the offender is wealthy, famous, privileged, and therefore skates.....it's just plain wrong.
Larry Glaser (Fairfax, Va)
A proper investigation will yield the truth. Has Society reached the point where we do not want to do that, have the truth? Know the truth?
Dave Oedel (Macon, Georgia)
The apparent point of Mr. Blow's piece is that the ones who should be embarrassed by Mr. Smollett's apparent, continuing prevarications are the media, and white conservatives, who are opportunistically using Mr. Smollett to advantage their agendas while damaging race relations. Hold on a minute. At least initially, the media and presidential candidates like Senator Harris were touting Mr. Smollett's weird story to beat up on whites in general as latent supremacists, primed in their MAGA hats, toting nooses and bleach, for an excuse to rage at African Americans. As for any presidential role in exacerbating strains in race relations, although President Trump bears some responsibility, President Obama's disappointing tenure on race relations is notable too. As for conservative whites as reflexive racists, maybe so, but does this piece not suggest that leftist African Americans can also be reflexively racist? One finger pointing, three pointing back. Mr. Blow's piece is evidence of the problem, not any plausible path out of the thicket. It only deepens the divisions. There are more creative possibilities.
H. Scott Butler (Virginia)
If Smollett is guilty, he not only made a false claim, he also used a politically charged issue to do it. Mr. Blow is right that this gave conservatives an opening to downplay all stories about ethnic and gay intolerance, though it's impossible to deny the two recent sanctuary massacres and, for anyone who's paying attention, the president's racist attitudes. But Smollett. if guilty, is the one who created the opening and for that as well as the crime itself he should be held accountable.
Little Donnie (Bushwick)
Conservatives gloat over (and amplify) the Smollett debacle because it's glaring evidence of identity based politics gone mad. Of course, those same conservatives are playing the same identity politics game. Identity politics is divisive politics. Now that conservatives have learned to play it's a bloodbath and the media loves a massacre.
Dennis Paden (Tennessee)
On its face the entire sordid event was just another reminder of the moral thinness of celebrity. Who needs a relatively unknown tv actor to exploit his fame by telling race-based lies when we have a more famous tv actor doing the same thing everyday from the Oval Office using the Presidential Seal as his prop?
Cass (Missoula)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: It’s a pretty good state of affairs when you have to literally pay someone $3,000 to perpetuate a hate crime against you.
Dave Oedel (Macon, Georgia)
No, the core victim of this matter wasn't a "stupid" Mr. Smollett, nor a powerful Ms. Tchen (Ms. Obama's chief of staff), nor a feckless Ms. Foxx (the county's prosecutor). No, the matter is not "trivial" or "meaningless." No, the "major damage" was not to Mr. Smollett's career/reputation, though major damage was incurred in those respects. The major damage was not even just to Chicago -- an aspect highlighted by Mayor Emanuel. Is there no damage to the nation's fabric? Is there no damage to Democratic Party leaders who endorsed Mr. Smollett's hoax, and can't even now clearly distance themselves from this sad person? If would-be presidents still cannot see through Mr. Smollett's ruse, heaven help us if any one of the candidates were to be negotiating for our country with the leaders of Iran, Russia, North Korea, Cuba and the like. Though I didn't vote for Trump, I saw clearly, along with just about everyone else, that Mr. Smollett targeted Trump voters in a dishonest, opportunistic way, asserting that MAGA-hatters were full of rage and violence against Mr. Smollett in very specific circumstances. Mr. Smollett's false charges were deviously vicious, revealing Mr. Smollett as the real hater. Mr. Smollett should be prosecuted vigorously. Ms. Obama's chief of staff, Ms. Tchen, and Ms. Foxx, Chicago's top prosecutor, were plainly involved. They should be investigated, respectively, for undue influence on, and improper exercise of, prosecutorial discretion.
Anon (Midwest)
I disagree. I am a prosecutor. The Smollett treatment did great harm to the "image" of prosecutors. The STate's Attorney is so incompetent, she didn't know how to properly recuse herself. Then, her spokesperson said they were using the word "recuse" in its colloquial form. Really? when the State's Attorney of one of the country's largest counties speaks using legal terms, I would understand it to be used in its legal sense. Next, internal emails were sent around to the assistant state's attorneys ex post facto asking for examples of cases where similar treatment had happened, despite the pronouncement that this was done "all the time." And finally, who does community service before even going to trial? Allegedly he did 16 hours of community service at PUSH headquarters. What a joke: an hour for each felony count? So all of this harms the image of prosecutors and the hard work we do for real victims and in protecting the public.
P.C.Chapman (Atlanta, GA)
@Anon..... And how is an appearance bond forfeited without any finding of fact at trial? And what is the status of the threatening letter sent by mail to Cinespace Studios? And why would 1600 want this dragged out for another news cycle with the steadfast proponents of law and order at Fox and Friends? See.....every angle can be weaponized in this penny-ante scheme!
Anon (Midwest)
@P.C.Chapman Re: the bond forfeiture. I believe there is an appellate case in IL that says even an innocent person who posted bond can end up forfeiting it, regardless of no guilt attaching. But I'd have to check for sure. Regardless, Kim Foxx, the SA, said he voluntarily did it. So ridiculous a comment. And one more thing: before she "recused" herself, she held a press conference that was ridiculous, detailing information that would have, in the end, tainted any jury pool. In IL there are ethical rules barring prosecutors from trying their case in the press. Modesty alone should shut her mouth: our indictments are to speak for themselves.
Dad (Multiverse)
Faux Outrage is, literally, Trump's Trump Card. Great piece, Charles. Welcome back, my man!
A S Knisely (London, UK)
Who should be embarrassed? Mr Blow, surely, for defending the indefensible. Not a bright moment for Mr Blow; but to re-confirm that tribalism informs his writing does not surprise.
Jay Orchard (Miami Beach)
Jussie Smollett is not the first person to falsely claim that he/she was subjected to a racially based physical attack (e.g. Tawana Brawley more than 30 years ago in 1987). But unlike Tawana Brawley, Smollett was a successful person who did not need the fame or the money that victims of publicized racial attacks often receive. Moreover, Smollett didn't just falsely claim that he was subjected to a racial attack - he specifically claimed that his alleged attackers were wearing MAGA hats. Trump supporters have grounds to believe that Smollett staged the attack for political reasons - i.e. to smear Trump supporters. That is why so much attention is being paid to this case by the media.
The Buddy (Astoria, NY)
There is an iron clad rebuttal to conservatives and racism skeptics. It is not the responsibility of hate crime victims to reconcile the behavior of a celebrity hoaxer.
C. Taylor (Los Angeles)
Blow’s argument includes, en passant, statements that validate what I’ve protested in commentaries like this for 20 years but have never before seen an MSM insider admit: "The media, spurred by wails from conservatives and always so desperately insecure about being accused of liberal bias, has pumped up and stretched out. …Folks, what you are seeing is a media being bullied into bending over backward to placate the people who endlessly accuse them of bias.” Thank you, Charles, for calling out "the emperor's [gray lady's] new clothes." In whistleBLOWer mode, you acknowledge the MSM’s costly subterfuge: for 25 years our precious freedom of the press has been skewing coverage toward false equivalency, unduly favoring the rightwing, and quickness to cover things that “embarrass” the left where parallel incidents on the right go unskewered. This is an embarrassment the NYT should own. We readers have been gaslighted far too long. Even as Trump has finally provoked the MSM to pull fewer punches in deference to power (or so it seems) and to finally call out lies as “lies,” the verbs and adjectives in headlines are still more often pejorative for politics of the left than the right, and false equivalency persists. The demonstrable bias in the MSM is not the one bumperstickered by the right. To the contrary, that rightwing drumbeat projects ‘liberal bias’ and keeps trusting that no one will notice them moving the posts ever-farther right toward their subversive goal.
Tom (Queens)
"Even the media is far more interested in the hoax angle to this story than they ever were about the alleged hate crime." But the hoax angle is the true part so it has the most concrete evidence to report so of course it has more legs in the news cycle. Jussie Smollett's story always seemed flimsy, so the press were only following the lead of the police department in reporting the facts to public. The press can't follow up with a story about suspects if there aren't any to find and they can't detail the incident properly if there was no incident. It all turns into hoax reporting very quickly once the first lie is detected. Being upset that the press latched onto this story and accusing them of cow towing to the Fox crowd is a bit disingenuous. Like it or not, Smollett's case is highly unusual and he is a celebrity to boot. He flaunted this lie all over social media. Sure, racists will love this story, but they didn't invent it, Jussie Smollett did. What everyone is saying is that he has done a disservice to American race relations, albeit a small one. Perhaps American's race relations are not totally "ripped to shreds in the Trump era" if Jussie Smollett had to lie about a hate crime rather actually being a victim of one.
Carl M (West Virginia)
@Tom Why do you assume the hoax is the true part? We have no way to know it was a hoax, and that is a key point that I take away from this article. The fact that the case was dismissed and sealed suggests that the prosecutor thought they could not win it - which suggests that it was not the simple hoax that has been claimed. The Chicago PD has leaked info to push their argument that it was as hoax, but the Chicago PD is not particularly credible, particularly when they are communicating via leaks. It seems to me that more was going on than has been leaked - perhaps there was an aspect of genuine attack, or a plan that did not go the way it had been planned. We have no way to tell.
Ryan (Midwest)
@ Carl... The prosecutor himself stated on the record that he believed the evidence would win a conviction at trial but, basically, pursuing a trial was not worth it since it wasn't a violent crime. Also, a grand jury heard the evidence and indicted Smollett on 16 felonies. You can choose to bury your head in the sand if you wish, but the vast majority of the public understands this was a hoax.
Thomas A. Hall (Florida)
@Carl M In an effort to sound reasonable, you have simply ignored the evidence or, worse yet, chosen to believe a highly suspect individual over the credible source of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. If anyone was going to play the race card, it would be him, but, in fact, he did not and condemned Mr. Smollet's actions. That alone makes Jussie Smollet's allegations unlikely.
Truthiness (New York)
The shining light on the hill has been dim for some time. Under Trump, racism has exploded; making America gross again. We are a nation of progression and regression; hopefully 2020 will see the end of the Trump criminal empire, and the election of reasonable, intelligent human beings.
MS (NYC)
The problem here is the lack of the average American to critically analyze a situation and calibrate its importance. It is why conspiracy theorists can have so many followers, why "reality" shows are so popular on TV, and why an incompetent, liar can become President of the US. Until Americans can be taught to critically think, we, as a country, will be vulnerable to charlatans. There is a reason that conservatives don't want to make it easier for people of lower means to get into college.
Denise Perez (NV)
AGAIN, IGNORANCE and arrogance. "Trivial crime"? Easy to say if the thought processes fails to consider the extrinsic and intrinsic ramifications of thought much less understand what that means clearly and it is foolish to gloat in that position and one is perceived as a fool clearly - was that the INTENT to such careless words? Again, all of HUMANITY is born into BONDAGE and slaves to the flesh. How one reconciles each of those chains are a matter of trial and error for the "NATURAL" person, that is, an individual without reference to spiritual matters and therein lies the rub, the LAST chain of BONDAGE which one must overcome or reconcile in thought in pursuit towards FREEDOM. Only ONE was able to sit before our FATHER and CREATOR and choose: 1. Parents. 2. Gender. 3. Race/culture. 4. Country of origin. 5. RELIGION or the lack thereof. The purpose of the ONE is clear and the WAY sure, however these are abstract concepts that require an adult mind to reason/navigate THROUGH. REGARDLESS, these are PERSONAL PROBLEMS and have no bearing in a pluralistic society but which ARE oobviously because of the clear FAILURE of individuals contending with THIER own ISSUES and overcoming these CHAINS but where instead are thrust onto the public unfairly as all have the identitcal forms of bondage. In resolving these issues the path is relatively EASY, it is with YOURSELF you must contend with.
Meg (Troy, Ohio)
That the media has made this a major story is an embarrassment to them. That the president wants FBI and DOJ to investigate this matter when there is so much else of real importance that needs Trump's attention is an embarrassment. That the Chicago mayor and police chief, who need to clean up their own ethical backyards, had to throw a press conference to rant and rave about this case is an embarrassment. This column is appropriate on April Fools' Day. We need to move on a deal with the real racism and bigotry issues in this country--that we don't is a real embarrassment--and appropriate for what usually happens on April 1st.
Barbara (Boston)
Charles, this story is also about homophobia. I am glad racism and its viciousness is getting exposed, and I wish you would write a column or two about the hatred faced by LBGTQ people by actions in Trump's government and expose some of the vicious hatred towards people in the LBGTQ community. FInally, I would also love it if you would really, really get into the racism and sexism faced by women of color.
cherrylog754 (Atlanta, GA)
It's as though if you reside on the left politically, or are not white, any wrong one makes, regardless of the nature, the entire community is also guilty. And that wrong wipes out all the good they have done. Yet over on the right politically, and whites, it's just the opposite. An injustice is done, oh it's an isolated incident, no big deal. Unfortunately I can't see any change forthcoming that will bring equal views by the left and right, the break seems permanent.
Alex (Chicago)
I'm not sure you can draw larger implications from a celeb-fueled tempest. These events will not change one mind on Fox or among their audience -- they are already in the place you describe. Until this happened, I had no clue who Jussie Smollet was as as an actor or neighbor (sorry, "Empire"). My own interest starts and ends on the question, "Is safe to walk my dog at night at night on the next block?
Ron McCrary (Atlanta GA)
I knew when I read the headlines, I knew immediately that this case would be used by those who don't believe in "hate crimes" as a way to discredit all of those cases. This case, no matter what the truth is, should be looked at as one incident, not as a blanket statement on all such cases.
LTJ (Utah)
Advice - Revisionist history is more palatable after the details are forgotten. Let’s recall when this incident was first reported it was publicized by the press and used by Democratic candidates to exemplify what was wrong with America, not by Fox News at the time. I do agree that what happens to celebrities means little in the scheme of things. But I also tend to believe those with first-hand knowledge of an event - ie the Chicago police and the Democratic mayor of Chicago - over Mr. Blow, who as usual contorts the facts to support his esoteric view of the world.
RM (NYC)
The Smollett case demonstrates that if you're well-connected and have access to money and power, the rules don't apply to you, regardless of race.
Terro O’Brien (Detroit)
Yes. I have to work hard these days not to feed the anti-legitimate news anger. My anger centers around the vastly disproportionate coverage of meaningless celebrity scandals at the expense of coverage of real harm being done to ordinary people. We face multiple extraordinary risks these days, and there are only 24 hours in the day to learn what needs to be learned to deal with them. The epitome of this media shock-and-profit grabbing was the coverage of the Clinton emails, that contributed so significantly to the election of Trump. Pretty soon my only subscription may be to Mother Jones, and the only news show I’ll watch is Rachel Maddow. I say this with reluctance, because one of the reasons I keep my subscription to the NYT is because of your column, Mr. Blow.
Pippi Longstocking (San Francisco, CA)
Truly excellent OpEd piece, Mr. Blow. The way the Jussie Smollett story has been reported by the media has been way overblown in terms of its relative importance, even by so-called "liberal media". To me, it's tabloid fodder; albeit fodder that conservatives have seized upon because it fuels multiple narratives that serve their interests. I'm just exasperated by the whole situation. Thank you for bringing clarity, reason and a keen perspective to the Smollett saga. I was literally nodding my head in agreement the whole way through reading your much needed piece.
John (Cactose)
@Pippi Longstocking Disagree completely. If this case was a real hate crime, Mr. Blow would be writing a completely different op-ed, likely using it as a hammer to show just how horrible this country is to POC. To dismiss the anger about this lie as nothing more than conservative "gotcha" is to completely ignore the current paradigm of an accusation amounting to 100% guilt - so long as the "privileged" are the accused.
Pippi Longstocking (San Francisco, CA)
@John But, it really is just that — that is —a conservative "gotcha". Smollett is a c/d-list celebrity who had a role on a cable television series, who (probably) did a dumb thing that was completely blown out of proportion, mainly, because it fueled various conservative narratives. IMO, it's an unimportant story, at least in the grand scheme of things. My statement is based in part on the reporting of the Smollett saga in my own, supposedly liberal hometown paper (SFGate/Chronicle). The comments there are mostly unmoderated and they were pretty much universally vile and racist.
Robert B (Brooklyn, NY)
As a civil rights attorney I agree that Smollett doesn't embody race problems in America, he embodies a culture of victimization in America. As Trump has proven, "Identity Politics" makes claiming victim status very valuable. "Identity Politics" confers tribal identity, and members obtain primary gains out of being victims. The last groups to be acknowledged as victims lose. In November, Noah Rothman wrote "Jussie Smollett and a Perfect Crime" in the Times. He documented the massive vilification as racists of any who "pleaded for caution in the Smollett case". Sadly, the article documented a host of staged attacks besides Smollett's, and how Smollett's case was "an object lesson in what happens when people in positions of political and cultural authority abandon critical thinking and pressure those who don’t abandon their circumspection under pain of being smeared as bigots. It also exemplifies the tendency of those arbiters to amplify "perfect crimes" that advance their political agenda—and to ignore crimes that don’t." He concluded: "The kind of scrutiny and anger reserved for incidents of racial hatred seem limited to episodes that confirm what social justice activists believe should constitute American bigotry. There have been no similar national paroxysms amid a sharp uptick in violence targeting New York City’s Jewish population. Maybe that’s because Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn don’t register for these activists as prototypical victims of violent prejudice."
Letmeknow (Ohio)
All I can say to bad that camera that jessie was hoping would capture the entire indecent was facing the wrong way. Had it not been the truth would have seen, an image that could not have been forgotten no matter who thought him innocent, including himself.
Mor (California)
Sometimes a single case can become a symbol or an embodiment of a larger socio-political trend. Single court cases, such as the Dreyfus case, tore countries apart because they disclosed deep ideological rifts within these countries. So yes, I believe Smollett s case is significant because it symbolizes the danger of “believing the victim”. Just because you claim to be a victim does not mean you are one. I have no doubt that Smollett lied. I have no doubt that false accusations of sex and hate crimes are not rare precisely because of this mantra of “believing the victim”. It encourages mentally unstable or malicious people to think that their stories would be accepted on faith because they are belong to a special and protected class. I think prosecutions for false reporting should be increased, so as to discourage people from going down the dangerous road of weaponizing justice in the service of a political agenda.
RU Kidding (CT, USA)
@Mor "Prosecution for false reporting should be increased" so that "justice" won't be weaponizef? Don't be so quick to abolish freedom of the press. There are already laws on the books to deal with libel. Reporting what is in the poluce record, i.e. Smollett's accusation, is not "false reporting." Remember, too, thst the president ssys of his friends: "He denies it, so we have lo listen to him, too," in spite of overwhelming, credible information to the contrary. Let's not trash our Constitution to shut up the "other side"
Bruce Stern (California)
I don't believe it is farfetched to suggest that the worst contagion human beings have ever experienced, witnessed, and in which they participated wasn't caused by a bacteria or virus but by the human mind: that someone and anyone of a different skin color is less human or not human. The fear, the behaviors, and the cruelty generated in the mind by skin tone virus has caused horrific and maybe in America an unresolvable clash and irreversible damage. I hope not.
MaryKayKlassen (Mountain Lake, Minnesota)
The sad truth, is that neither the dropping of this case, by the prosecutor, Kim Fox, or the involvement by the FBI and DOJ, is the answer, as those that stand for truth, are the only ones that matter, and it is not DT and his administration, nor is it the prosecutor in Chicago. Both of them are two different sides of the same coin, despicable. Until we all can agree on that, little will change in this country.
poslug (Cambridge)
Let me add white collar crime to this discussion. I am still enraged about the Manafort's short sentence. Talk about undercutting justice. My first seething reaction was who paid Judge Ellis. So the Mueller team is not believed when it recommends time? Less trust, less faith, less hope. All of this is about imbalance of power being played, high and low, race or money or gender or pick your inequity. Truth and balance and decency lost in the fray. Trump and the GOP manipulating it to all our disadvantage. Lies and deceit in all forms undercut us all.
Laurel McGuire (Boise Idaho)
I have a problem now assuming he’s guilty. I can’t imagine prosecutors giving up for the reasons they implied. The whole thing is bizarre but thoughts of leading guestions, artificial stories suggested to 5he brothers, police who start to think they’ve been had buying into another narrative. I don’t know but am willing to put this into the unknown category right now until I know more. We may find that the two men were hired by someone else for unknown reasons or it was some bizarre prank gone wrong. Or the police may be right. But given that the prosecutors completely dropped the case I think we would be smart to refrain from flogging Smollett.
Patrick (Ithaca, NY)
"All the world's a stage..." And Mr. Smollett is an actor. If true, he deigned for himself a performance of "Howard Stern" shock outrage. And there was shock, and there was outrage as he played the "victim" part to almost perfection. Yet as in any conflict, real or imagined, there are three truths, that of the victim, that of the attackers, and the objective reality, non distorted from the lens of personal interpretations. Yet in this age of "spin," whether furiously on the right or left, the story is told and retold a thousand times until the actual event is lost in the cacophony of angst. Yet, as Charles and other commenters note, there are rules for the well off and rules for the plebians. How we address that will be a measure of our success or failure as a society. What a performance, Mr. Smollett, if you can move us to something better in the long run.
Frank J Haydn (Washington DC)
"Prosecutors cut him a break that I don’t think they would have cut for the poor and the powerless." So Mr. Blow, you think he was in fact guilty if what he was charged with?
Henry Crawford (Silver Spring, Md)
Mainstream media never recovered from the firing of Dan Rather. After that sorry affair (Rather was essentially correct in claiming Bush was given special treatment during the Vietnam war) the general media have cowered in fear of conservative wrath.
David (Louisiana)
This has become not only a race issue but a class one as well. We mere peons saw the dismissal as yet another example that the rich and famous live by a different set of rules.
esp (ILL)
The case caused the police department to spend a zillion hours investigating his crime that they could have spent dealing with the many other crimes that occur in the city. Many hours of overtime were spent as well as dollars to investigate his crime. in fact there was theft: $130,000 that was spent investigating the case. This was no minor incident. And although he didn't plead guilty, like trump, he was not exonerated and indeed and to perform a pittance of community service and forfeit his bond. A grand jury decided he should stand trail. The police believed he did this as did the prosecution. The police were not aware that the prosecution was making a plea deal. Once again the wealthy and famous have been treated differently than the majority of people.
Laurel McGuire (Boise Idaho)
There wasn’t a “plea deal”. They dropped the case. That gives me reason to ponder what I thought I knew.
esp (ILL)
@Laurel McGuire Smollett had to forfeit his bond and do community service. That is NOT exactly a dropped case. Furthermore, the DA had ties with his family and and kind of excused herself. It's Chicago after all.
JRM (Melbourne)
@esp I hate the word Zillion, it's a Trump word and it is ridiculous to use it in any instance. But I agree it was wrong and it was stupid but it is nothing compared to other crimes committed by others. Why is it still news?
chefgreg (New York, NY)
First we all expressed sadness and outrage that Smollett was brutally attacked by apparently racist Trump supporters. Then we expressed sadness, confusion and outrage when we learned that the whole thing was a strange hoax dreamed up and executed by Smollett himself. We watch the Chicago police department and mayor go all in with condemnation of the horrible stain Smollett placed on their city. Then the whole case is dropped and once again we don't know what to believe. I am a fan of the show and have been a fan of Smollett both as a performer and as a very bright and eloquent activist. But listen, in an age when we have a president and his supporters who cry "fake news" at real news and they believe actual fake news, we probably should not be creating our own fake news. It's adding fake fuel to a fake fire and strengthening the arguments of Trump and his minions. Having listened to Smollett with great interest and respect in the past when he spoke out against this president, I am having a hard time trying to imagine what is going on here. Now we may never know.
Daphne (East Coast)
@chefgreg Read up on what is happening and who are the players in the mayoral race.
Meg (NY)
@chefgreg I think the fake news is Smollett’s continued claim of victimhood. The liberal Democratic Mayor and the black police chief both went off on him, not just Trump. They are not racists for calling it like it is. Smollett may have escaped justice, but that doesn’t mean we can’t see the truth. Unfortunately Jussie is a liar and a fraud.
Robert Pryor (NY)
This is a disaster on two counts. First, Jussie Smollett’s decision to take the actions that he did, and, second, the decision by the prosecutor not to complete a plea agreement with Smollett in which he: pleaded guilty; served a modest period of time in prison; followed by community service.
Roberta (Newmarket nh)
I can't help clinging to the belief that the case was sealed with no trial, and no plea bargain, because the prosecution couldn't prove their case. In other words, in spite of that check -- which Smollett has explained in a way that can't be refuted without an actual trial -- that he could very well be innocent. After all, the assailants' explanation is basically the rallying cry of bullies: "The victim made us do it." The police and the prsecutors claim to believe the accused assailants, and continue to sate that publicly. Fine. There has to be a reason they didn't want their contention picked apart in court.
Meg (NY)
@Roberta So you think the brothers did it without being hired by Smollett? And they are Nigerian MAGA supporters?
Common Ground (Washington)
Please stop the Hate Speech. It’s time to Move On .
Mark Nuckols (Moscow)
Oh, I agree the Smollet story is overblown. But there *is* a tendency to exaggerate racism by whites and to downplay, for example, the violence in African-American communities. I lived in Ft. Greene Park long before gentrification, and I can tell you, after living in ten different countries ranging from the U.K. to Uzbekistan, I've never since seen such out-of-control violence and criminality, nothing even remotely what I experienced daily in Brooklyn.
Jennifer (Brooklyn)
@Mark Nuckols I guess what you say must be true. I don't know where you lived in Fort Greene. But, I've lived in or near "African-American communities" in Brooklyn since 1983 and have never experienced or seen out-of-control violence or criminality. I have seen teenagers behaving badly, sometimes very badly, but no more so than in the neighborhoods in grew up in which were in the small town midwest.
Scott (Paradise Valley,AZ)
@Jennifer I lived in a very rough area in the midwest. Yes, crime and drugs are rampant in low income AA communities.
CARL BIRMAN (WHITE PLAINS NY)
Mr. Blow: When I agree with you I go all in but when I feel you are mistaken, respectfully, I believe you go to the other extreme. This column makes no sense. I get that racism, implied and explicit, remains your personal top priority in terms of issue-spotting and action-oriented advocacy, good for you, I support that choice. But my personal choice, and I believe the choices of many victims of bias and hate, is to fight for a society that credits their accusations wherever and whenever practicable. Mr. Smollett's fabrications have undermined the legitimacy not only of every other victim out there but of the legal system being built to combat, prosecute and punish the perpetrators of those bias crimes. To minimize that devastating impact as you have done in this piece is sadly misguided. Do not let Jussie off the hook so easily. He will have another shot at celebrity fame and fortune, and when he does, the poor and disadvantaged folks who continue to be the targets and victims of bias and hate will have one less spokesperson to look up to. Weep for that day, Mr. Blow, weep for that day.
soitgoes (NJ)
@CARL BIRMAN. I agree, 100%. Look back at the damage done to the social fabric of the time by the Tawana Brawley episode. It reinforced fear, prejudice, and ignorance on all sides, each person taking away from it what he or she personally and ideologically WANTED to believe. And it was all a hoax, a lie that set race relations back years. It harmed the very cause it purported to help, as does the Jussie Smollett episode. If it was indeed a lie, it should be exposed as such, and we should move on. The literal truth is colorblind.
James Burman (Annapolis)
@CARL BIRMAN agree on everything you've said
Jeff (Chicago, IL)
There is a lot of justifiable outrage and shame to go around with respect to race relations in America both past and present. If the two term election of Barack Obama injected even a small amount of much needed hope in the American dream among African Americans, Donald Trump has ripped of that band-aid before any substantive healing could begin, revealing a raw wound into which Trump and some of his "many fine people" continue to pour salt with a new found sense of cruelty-driven empowerment. With the eyes of the world laser focused on the bizarre twists of a very strange alleged hate crime against Jussie Smollett, the city of Chicago police department devoted considerable resources to investigate this reported crime as swiftly and carefully as possible. The police department concluded definitively that Smollett staged this crime as a hoax. Mr. Blow might be ready to move on from the Jussie Smollett investigation but the national and world media appear to be dug in for the long haul and social media is more than happy to offer several million perspectives. A new generation now has their very own OJ Simpson to investigate with Trump in the White House and a vibrant social media network in place. Even though Smollett wasn't accused of murder, supporters and detractors seem to be divided similarly in the OJ trial, along racial lines. Jussie Smollett has provoked an important national dialogue on race that will be spoken even some don't want to listen at all.
EGD (California)
@Jeff Smollett’s conspiratorial and dangerous fraud could have instigated retaliatory attacks on innocent people. People could have died because of his selfish self-promotion. Decent people should shun Mr Smollett. In addition, considering the daily carnage occuring in Chicago, Smollett took valuable police resources away from where they were urgently needed.
Alexander Harrison (Wilton Manors, Fla.)
@Jeff: In words of Beth Spaeth, Times newspaper columnists live in a bubble!Author focus on deteriorating relations between law enforcement and inhabitants of Chicago's west and south sides, where crimes against residents r a banal "fait quotidien," rather than on Mr. Smollett! Chicago's police force has spent over $200,000 investigating Smollett's bogus claims, money that could have been used to improve living conditions in the above mentioned "quartiers" where going out for a quart of milk at local store is an act of bravado due to tyranny of drug gangs. Author is saying, "Poor us, having to live in this racist country; slavery began in 1619 with arrival of pilgrims!"Yet CB makes a nice living, does not have to take chances other journos do in conflict areas--Algeria is 1 example where over 70 reporters gave their lives in pursuit of truth in latest civil war between FIS, GAI and armed forces, and 1 never knew where shots were coming from. Chris Hedges was there, salute to his stamina, courage.Spouse from Ghana and son who attends a charter school r grateful to be in "Les Etats Unis!"Author should be too, and cease running down a country which has given him so much.enabled him to make a nice living and where metier of journalism is not 1 that 1 enters cognizant of any dangers to his physical person.Suggest Kamel Daoud, author of "Mersault,la Contre Enquete" as a role model, a profile in courage!
Joe Public (Cleveland, OH)
If Mr. Smollett truly did this (only a court of law should determine guilt, not the court of public opinion) then his victims are his supporters. Their trust would be the casualty of the falsehood. While groups of people united against each other inevitably clash, they at least know what holds their own together. One of the Delphic maxims was "know thyself". If a group can no longer identify what holds itself together, it will only fracture into smaller pieces, causing people to be lost to the fringes. In addition, the 24 hour coverage of sensationalized stories makes us suspicious of our fellow human being, with the final, usually dull, facts being an afterthought thrown onto a ticker tape scrolling under the talking heads. Give a person a hammer, and everything is a nail. Give a person a reason to be suspicious, and everything is a hoax, collusion, etc.
The HouseDog (Seattle)
Except for race, the activities here are typical of the old Hollywood publicity machine - what better way to rebuild a declining career than with an attack and a victim. But this is now real life and actions have consequences- for all concerned, and in these days, yes- even with society as a whole.
Gill Fin (Seattle)
It's as if you forget there are victims. What about his co-workers or local citizens who may have feared for their own safety after his hoax? What about those taxpayers who lose faith in our system over this, regardless of who or what they believe. It doesn't feel like justice to anyone.
World Traveler (Charlotte, NC)
Unfortunately, most people tend to derive their ideological views from anecdotes rather than statistics or systematic observations. Some will point to some counter example and say, see black people are just making it all up! People can't seem to help generalizing their views from a few random instances, which, of course, are selected based on their biases to being with. People on the left tend to do this as well. Police shoot a black man, and rarely are questions asked about the systemic conditions that lead to shootings. More often, people just care if a particular person is guilty or not, which doesn't do anything to address systemic racism among police. Sadly, the left often fixates too much on these instances rather look at the larger systemic issues. The problem with fixating on a particular case is that you can easily be wrong. Maybe in that case the officer was justified, who knows without access to all the evidence. And then the right uses that as a counter example showing that protesters are corrupt because they got it wrong in a particular case. And then people debate endless whether a particular officer is guilty or not. Obviously, shooting statistics show there is a an institutionalized problem of racism, but people can't think beyond anecdotes. Media is somewhat culpable because anecdotes make for good reading, whereas statistics is boring. For social scientists, this must be maddeningly frustrating.
Carl M (West Virginia)
It seems to me that the fact that the case was dismissed means that more is going on than was claimed in the media - if Smollett really did just make up the crime from whole cloth, I don't think that they would have dismissed the case and sealed the records. Am I too pessimistic about the police and prosecutors, to think they would never be so generous in this kind of situation, in Chicago? This is the land of Homan Square. The sealing is particularly unfortunate here, because it blocks the truth from coming out, when the truth - or the best approximation we can get - is the only thing that could have clarified the situation and led to a resolution.
Jp (Michigan)
The court kept the 10% bond that was posted by Smollet. So yeah, he was attacked, no doubt. You betcha.
Texan (USA)
Smollett has ghosts. I'm sure. They may be non-corporeal, but they are very real. We all have them to varying degrees, and for various reasons. That's why people drink alcohol and use drugs. Whether they are legal or illegal is irrelevant. It's a lot to ask, but Smollett can make amends by opening up about some of his struggles. Amazing how Big Bird doesn't feel guilty for any of his transgressions, but Makes America Great Again by spotlighting the insignificant behavior of others.
eli (chicago)
It really wasn't believable that guys in MAGA hats would plan an attack in the city of Chicago. This is NOT MAGA country. This is, if you recall, the town that ran Trump out on a rail, so to speak, when he tried to have a rally at the UIC pavillion during his campaign. That said, we are still one of the most segregated cities in the country; something that makes Smollette's story possible. And the way power is played here made the court deal happen. I can't pretend to know how it happened, but the power players do access a different kind of justice, as we all know. Not the first time, won't be the last.
Mitch (Denver, Colorado)
@eli in one of the most integrated countries in the world.
EGD (California)
@eli After video of the Nigerians buying the materials used in the ‘attack’ along with Smollett’s cashed check written to the Nigerians showed up, along with their cooperation with the police, you still don’t know what happened?
Jay (Atlanta)
While I agree with the author on several points, I think the most important issue with the majority of people I've spoken to is that a celebrity (allegedly) saw an opportunity to advance his career by leveraging a timely social rift. For me, the most convincing evidence, which is seldom mentioned, is the difference in the phone records Smollett submitted to the police vs the complete records the police obtained from the cell provider (Smollett intentionally omitted the Osundairo communication around the time of the incident). That we strangely came to know so many details is why most of us realistically expected the prosecution to fail. Regardless of how you interpret or weigh the evidence, the issue we don't want to discuss is how many people fraudulently take advantage of these inter-sectional social disparities for their own personal gain. Jussie's attempt was a ridiculous one, but it happens all the time. How selfish are you when your salary is worth more than a deeper tear in our social fabric?
NorthernVirginia (Falls Church, VA)
@Jay wrote “Regardless of how you interpret or weigh the evidence, the issue we don't want to discuss is how many people fraudulently take advantage of these inter-sectional social disparities for their own personal gain.” You mean like a museum two blocks from the White House, in the densest surveillance camera coverage in the world, twice reporting a noose secretly dropped on an exhibit — and nobody saw who did it?
James (Holiday)
No, in this case they're actually imaginary; nice try though. I can't remember the last time I read an article that was based on disassociation and minimizing seriously damaging behavior while offering the acknowledgement of the crimes themselves as a justification boarding on the acceptable, nigh expected. Maybe, instead, a little personal accountability and a little less excuses are in order.
Alexandra Brockton (Boca Raton)
It would help to stop taking Trump's tweets as a new action or as including actual knowledge of how government works. The FBI has the "letter" part of the case because the letter went through the mail. It's that simple. The FBI is under the jurisdiction of the Attorney General (the DOJ). So, what Trump tweeted, in his typical provocative way, was nothing more than what had already taken place, with respect to the letter. I will never understand this case unless the records are unsealed. "Empire" is a Motown meets Rap meets Hip Hop meets the Crooked Music Industry meets Greedy Agents meets People Who Kill for Personal Reasons meets People Who Commit Adultery and Crimes show. It's kind of a mess, when you really think about it. Jussie is talented. If he wanted to play a character that was close to his identity, he had a great role on a hit TV show; a gay, black man who was vocalist, song writer and performer. He was able to showcase all of his talents. His music performances were great. And, he was a likeable character. I watched "Empire" for the first 3 seasons and he was my favorite character. But, by end of season 3, I thought the plot was dumb, even if I loved the music. I stopped watching because I got bored with the whole Lyons family drama and a plot line that became ridiculous. I don't know what will happen with Jussie. But, I do have a strong opinion about what is going to happen with "Empire." It has run its course.
Huge Grizzly (Seattle)
This is one of the best—most on point—op-eds about race in the last several years. Unfortunately, it will go unread or unappreciated by those who need it most. Miles to go before we sleep.
Anchusa (Nova scotia)
@Huge Grizzly. Agreed. I, being distanced from the situation, nevertheless sensitized to the emotions roused by racism, find it all a bit funny. Taking the events as street theatre, performance art- bravo Jussie.! The fact that it all aroused such self righteous, moralistic judgement is kind of baffling to me but it certainly means he hit the nail on the head. Challenging all sorts of comfortable pseudo understanding. Clearly Jussie has great talent and I hope he is not crushed by all this but finds a way to grow and flourish and express that talent.
Kathy Lollock (Santa Rosa, CA)
Your point is well taken, Charles. Whether it be Trump, FOX News, too many Republicans in Congress, and, yes, those MAGA supporters, the go-to response and reaction is what Freud called "projection." These groups above are desperate to blame others for what is within themselves...bigotry, racism, and nativism. But I believe it is not out of self-denial that such adverse characteristics are manifested. Rather it is purposeful and deliberate. Whether Smollett is lying and a lost individual or not, it is merely symbolic of what is plaguing our society now. This Pandora Box of ills which Trump has actively unlocked is almost epidemic in its influence over those who are both fearful and threatened by the "other." And as a final point, it is not only FOX Inc which is playing the Smollett case ad nauseam. It is also our more reputable media which make him front page news. This nation is riddled with serious and challenging problems, more so than in recent history. Whether it be a TV star, the Conway marriage, or Donald's incessant, deceptive, and bizarre tweets, do thinking, mature people really care? I have my doubts.
Zeke27 (NY)
@Kathy Lollock A friend wrote a song with the line "Hate me so you don't have to hate yourself." trump and his followers seem to fit that line well.
Jerry D. (Fort Worth, TX)
@Kathy Lollock You cant blame Trump and Fox for Jessie's actions. I can agree though, that Smollett is "symbolic of what is plaguing our society."
Mike (NY)
@Kathy Lollock We need more conservatives in Congress and less people like you in the world. Smollett should be in jail with all those corrupt people who let him go free.
G.S. (Dutchess County)
"The major damage was the damage Smollett did to his own career and reputation." Not necessarily. For a "media person" name recognition is money. A lot more people are familiar with his name now. For the tabloid devouring people it does not matter if the media person is good, bad, unprincipled, an angel, etc. They heard the name, they want to hear all about him.
Larry G (NYC)
@G.S. Some say there is no such thing as bad publicity. I guess in the case of illegitimate pres.trump, that would certainly be the case. The press is feeding the frenzy, regarding a couple of possible past mis-steps by Joe Biden, while literally thousands of trump's cruelty laced acts are so overwhelming that they have no effect.
Bob Guthrie (Australia)
@Larry G Yes the irony is Trump's daily bleating his own fake victimhood and the irony of his trying to exploit Smollett's apparent fake victimhood. The difference is of course that Jussie right or wrong is not the President. Never noticed Jussie grovelling to Putin and canning US Intelligence or putting kids in cages after separating them from their parents. With all this focus on victimhood, it seems that Barr's refusal to recuse himself against the advice of the ethics advisors is being ignored. Victim Trump appoints a guy who has demonstrable bias, as AG who then proceeds to cover up all he can.
Bill Michtom (Beautiful historic Portland)
@Larry G Many, not "a couple." Unequivocal (with video & photo proof), not possible. Plus, Mr. Biden has support for official racism & sexism (the Clarence Thomas hearings) in his record. Also, voting for the Iraq war, and all of the damaging policies (financial & international) of the Obama administration in his resume.
Rick Gage (Mt Dora)
There seems to be no end to the ways the media can be manipulated. This Friday on CNN there was a fifteen minute discussion about Trump closing the border to Mexico next week. All thought it was a bad idea, all thought it was unlikely to happen because the president had stated the same thing in the past and didn't follow through and all knew it would be labeled fake news, by the very man who stated the policy, later in the week. It was a real circle of life moment. They covered a lot of ground, they didn't get anywhere and it left me feeling nauseous.
Christopher (Buffalo)
Did I not read that Smollett surrendered his $10,000 cash bond? That would seem like financial restitution, at least in part. $10,000 buys a lot of police overtime.
Amanda (New York)
They probably spent 10-30 times that much investigating.
Mark (Philadelphia)
Sadly the police investigation cost hundreds of thousands of dollars which could have been spent elsewhere in a place with one of the highest murder big city rates in the first world.
rtj (Massachusetts)
@Christopher Chicago billed him $130,000. That's what they say the OT cost the city.
Dana (Santa Monica)
While I agree with the premise - I don't think it's fair to appl yto Mr. Smollett's case given how high profile a person he was. This was not your average joe making a claim that few would care about. The day it happened all my social media feeds were filled with people sharing this story outraged about what they believed to have occurred. The actor used his high profile to amplify this story that would later turn out to be a lie. Although few claims of racism are hoaxes and Trump and his supporters are totally disingenuous in their outrage - it is important not to exonerate Smollett either. He told a terrible, hurtful and costly lie - the fact that conservatives distort the importance of it - does not mean that Smollett's original lie was insignificant.
Roberta (Kansas City)
@Dana Nowhere does Blow suggest that Mr. Smollet's action should be minimized or he should be exonerated. But the fact that trump is tweeting about it two months after the fact is sad, but unfortunately predictable. As soon as I became aware of what Mr. Smollet had done, my first thought was, conservatives and right wing pundits are going to milk this for all it's worth -- they will treat it as a "win" for "their side". And that's exactly what they've done. It's unfortunate that this has become the state of public discourse in our country.
L.L (NYC)
@Roberta And prior to the incident being discovered as a hoax, the left was treating it as a "win" for "their side" as well. The problem is on both sides, not just left or right. If we continue to hold this left vs right, red vs blue mindset, then this country isn't going to get better anytime soon... It's not even difficult to find people on the "opposing side" to have a friendly conversation with about confrontational topics.
JR (CA)
@Roberta The problem is that the talk radio crowd searches constantly for embarrassing news about their "enemies" (other Americans they don't like.) So when an inncident like this occurs, these freedom fighters integrate this actual occurrence into their fantasy narrative thereby making the whole thing seem credible. Smollett hurt a lot more than himself.
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