At a press conference held Thursday morning to discuss Jussie Smollett’s felony charge, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson blasted Smollett for a “shameful” hoax hate crime, and lashed out at media, celebrities, and politicians who amplified his story to promote their own agendas,
Police announced the charges against Smollett late Wednesday; Smollett turned himself into authorities early Thursday morning.
CPD Superintendent Johnson revealed details of the Chicago PD’s investigation of Smollett, including that Smollett had paid his co-conspirators by check, and that he allegedly staged the attack because he was dissatisfied with his $1.17 million paycheck from the Fox show “Empire,” and believed he could do better. Johnson also revealed that authorities believe Smollett authored and sent a threatening letter to himself, but that federal authorities will handle that aspect of the case.
Johnson also took the opportunity to comment on the Smollett case, calling the actor’s alleged actions “shameful” and accusing the actor of taking “advantage of the pain and anger of racism to advance his career.”
“As a black man who spent his entire life living in the city of Chicago, 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. How can an individual who’s been embraced by the city of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in this city in the face by making these false claims?”
JUST IN: “‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Chicago PD Superintendent Eddie Johnson says. https://t.co/5AiMcfe6iH pic.twitter.com/nOOhk0e8YD
— ABC News (@ABC) February 21, 2019
Johnson added that he was personally offended by Smollett’s alleged actions, and blamed Smollett for taking police resources away from Chicago residents who really need them.
“I am left hanging my head asking ‘why?’ Why would anyone — especially an African American man — use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusation,” Johnson said, according to The Wrap. “Bogus police reports cause real harm. They do harm to every legitimate victim who is in need of support by police and investigators as well as the citizens of this city. … I’m offended by what happened and I am also angry.”
But Smollett wasn’t the only one Johnson had words for. The police superintendent also lashed out at those who amplified Smollett’s story in order to capture attention for themselves.
“The accusation within this phony attack received national attention for weeks,” Johnson continued. “Celebrities, news commentators and even presidential candidates weighed in on something that was choreographed by an actor.”
“I wish the families of gun violence in this city got so much attention,” he added.
It seems Johnson was referring specifically to comments made by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who called the alleged attack a “modern-day lynching,” and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), who used Smollett’s story to promote his own legislative agenda.
Smollett will likely remain in custody until a bond hearing Thursday afternoon. His lawyers have pledged to mount an “aggressive defense” to the felony charge, and 20th Century Fox Entertainment, which produces “Empire,” says they are standing by Smollett for the time being.
Although CPD has concluded its investigation, statements from the FBI and the USPS Inspector are expected.