CHICAGO — The shocking claim that “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett staged an attack on himself is not only drawing an extraordinary rebuke from authorities but also from Chicagoans who say he took advantage of the racial tension simmering in the city and used it to selfishly promote himself.
“What he did could make it harder for the straight, gay, black, white, rich, poor folks here in Chicago and in the nation,” the Rev. Gregory Seal Livingston, a pastor with Chicago’s New Hope Baptist Church, said. “How much more cautious are (police) going to be to extend credibility and resources to a real hate crime?”
News of a possible self-orchestrated attack has hit a nerve in the city.
“I think he’s full of sh*t and needs to go back to Hollywood or wherever he came from,” Monika Land told Fox News.
Her sister Rebekah, who moved to Chicago’s south side seven years ago, said she expected more from Smollett and worries about a backlash.
“All he did was think of himself,” she said. “What about our kids? If one of them gets shot or harassed… do you think the police are going to come out here and help? The answer was no and is still no.”
Chicago police charged Smollett this week with filing a false report for allegedly staging a Jan. 29 attack on himself and making it look like he was the victim of a hate crime. Smollett has denied the charge.
The 36-year-old actor, who is black and gay, claimed two men assaulted him last month. He said they threw bleach on him, put a noose around his neck and said it was “MAGA” country, referring to President Trump’s supporters, during the assault.
On Friday, producers of “Empire,” which airs on Fox, announced they would remove Smollett’s character “Jamal” from the last two episodes of the current season.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson slammed the tv star Thursday calling the Smollett saga “simply shameful.” Johnson, who has spent three decades as a police officer, was asked to lead the department in 2016 after former top cop Garry McCarthy was fired following the release of dashcam footage showing a white police officer fatally shooting a black teenager 16 times in less than 30 seconds. The incident prompted widespread protests across the city.
“I know the racial divide that exists here,” Johnson said. “I know how hard it’s been for our city and our nation to come together. And I also know the disparities and I know the history. ‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism.”
Carmia Tang, whose son Jeremy Alexander Tang, was murdered in Chicago on Sept. 3, 2017, is frustrated by the coverage Smolett’s case has received.
“My son was shot and killed in Chicago – where is his national media attention?” she asked.
There are 700 unsolved murders in Chicago.
“If Jussie Smollett lied, he has wasted tons of taxpayer dollars and extremely valuable police time – and should be prosecuted to the fullest,” she said. “Police resources were used for an awful hoax instead of an unsolved case like Jeremy’s.”
Still, Myles Brady Davis, a spokesman for Equality Illinois, told Fox News he holds out hope that the Smollett situation will bring attention to hate crimes in Chicago.
“LGBTQ people of color in particular, are aware of the very real threat hate crimes pose to our community,” he said in a written statement.
According to the most recent FBI data available, there were 41 hate crimes in Chicago in 2017. Of those, 8 victims were targeted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and 16 were targeted because of their race or ethnicity.
“In no way should we be allowing the events taking place to distract us from the real and pervasive challenges that the LGBTQ community faces on a daily basis,” Channyn Lynne Parker, transgender community advocate, told Fox.
“Well before the developments on Jussie Smollett’s case we’ve seen hate crimes against members of LGBTQ community, particularly trans women of color on the upswing, not only in Chicago, but across the country,” she added. “…In a nutshell, this just proves, regardless of the occurrence with Jussie Smollett, that there is still much work to do to ensure the safety of our community.”