While many have associated "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett's name with potential felony, Van Jones of CNN has a very different name in mind: MLB icon Jackie Robinson.
According to Fox News, Van Jones made the bizarre comparison between Robinson and Smollett on Thursday "during a rant about how beneficial the actor has been to the 'black community.'" His comments followed Chicago P.D.'s testimony that Jussie Smollett is now alleged to have staged a hoax hate crime against himself.
"This is the fall of an icon and I don’t think people understand how important he has been in the black community," Jones said on Thursday. "'Empire' as a show, to have him as a beloved character, I think did a great deal to knock back homophobia in the black community. The fact that he has been celebrated and you see homophobia in the black community through his eyes on the show, this is a Jackie Robinson against homophobia."
Unlike Jackie Robinson, the first MLB player to break the color barrier in 1947, the 36-year-old Smollett has been working in the entertainment industry virtually unimpeded since childhood, during which he starred in such hit children's movies like "The Mighty Ducks" and "North." In adulthood, he has starred in Academy Award-nominated movies like "Marshall" and summer blockbusters like "Alien: Covenant." On "Empire," the actor allegedly amassed for himself a salary of $65k per episode (possibly more) — which he apparently felt dissatisfied with to the point of staging a hoax "hate crime" for publicity purposes. How this compares to Jackie Robinson, an American hero, is unclear at best.
Van Jones is not the only commentator on CNN to spin the Smollett hate hoax fiasco into a kind of Shakespearean downfall (while still offering room for image rehabilitation). On Wednesday, anchor Don Lemon blamed Smollet's downfall in the court of public opinion on the media.
"Nothing against morning shows, I love all of my colleagues there, I think they do a great job, but that’s not where it is now," Lemon said. "Come on a show like this or any of my colleagues and sit down with us live for an hour or however long it takes, answer the questions that need to be answered from real journalists — I shouldn’t say that, from journalists who don’t have to worry about the entertainment arm of their particular company."
"He lost because — not his fault. Maybe people were — I don’t know what they were saying to him, maybe because of his representatives. Who knows? But it was handled poorly," Lemon later added.
Others have suggested that Smollett should not be punished for the crime of frauding the public and wasting taxpayer dollars. Some have said people should have more compassion for his mental state.
Washington Examiner Magazine executive editor Seth Mandel tweeted, "Jussie Smollett royally messed up, in what’s beginning to look more like a cry for help than anything else. I don’t see how sending him to prison accomplishes that so I hope it doesn’t reach that point."