Over the weekend, the breathlessly and uncritically reported alleged hate crime supposedly committed by two Trump supporters against "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett crumbled under the weight of new evidence.
Smollett claims he was verbally and physically assaulted on January 29 by two white men yelling about so-called "MAGA country" in downtown Chicago for being gay and black. However, recent reports reveal the actor likely hired two Nigerian men to stage the highly-publicized attack on him.
"Sources say at least one of the brothers bought the rope used in the incident at Smollett's request. The sources also say the 'Empire' actor paid for the rope, which was purchased at the Crafty Beaver Hardware Store the weekend of Jan. 25. The brothers were paid $3,500 before leaving for Nigeria and were promised an additional $500 upon their return," CBS News Chicago reports.
Apparently, Mr. Smollett was not pleased when a racist, MAGA-inspired threatening letter allegedly sent to him did not generate enough media attention. Thus, the plot to carry out the attack was born, new reports suggest.
Reacting to the case's developments, civil rights leaders have been distancing themselves from Smollett, and on Sunday, one such activist, Los Angeles' Najee Ali, slammed the actor for nearly sparking a "race war" and demanded Smollett be "arrested and prosecuted" for the apparent "hoax."
Ali, director of Project Islamic HOPE, said what Smollett reportedly did was a "slap in the face" to real victims.
"Today, Project Islamic HOPE is calling upon the arrest and criminal prosecution of 'Empire' star and actor Jussie Smollett. We believe Mr. Smollett lied about being the victim of a hate crime and being assaulted, and for us, it's a slap in the face."
"Mr. Smollett put people's lives at risk and could have created a situation that was much more damaging for those who are African American and for those who do identify with the LGBT community. We have many members of the black community and the LGBT community who have been the victims of racism and hate crimes, so for Smollett to say that he was a victim of racism and hate crime — and we believe that is a lie — certainly is an injustice to those true victims of racism and hate crimes."
"Jussie Smollett must be brought to justice for lying," Ali said, adding, "We gave him the benefit of the doubt" until Smollett's "campaign of lies" unraveled his story.
Ali continued: "Also, Smollett could have created a race war! There were many African American and many members of the LGBT community who were very upset and outraged by Smollett claiming he was attacked and victimized. So there were some in those communities whose thoughts are a little more extreme, they wanted to retaliate."
"If Jussie Smollett really wants to do what's right, he'll stop lying," said the activist, noting that the actor needs to offer an apology.
H/t ABC 7 News