CNN’s Don Lemon complained on Wednesday that it was not Jussie Smollett’s fault that he lost the battle in the court of public opinion after the “Empire” actor was charged with felony disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report.
Smollett, who was arrested Thursday morning, was charged with allegedly lying to police about a hate crime that law enforcement officials claim he orchestrated against himself because he was dissatisfied with the tens of thousands of dollars that he was making per episode.
In a clip flagged by The Washington Free Beacon’s David Rutz, Lemon argued that it was not Smollett’s fault that he lost the public relations battle in the court of public opinion.
“In the court of public opinion, Jussie has lost,” Lemon said. “He’s lost the fight in the court of public opinion.”
“It matters,” Lemon continued. “And he lost that because of how — and not his fault. Maybe people were — I don’t know what they were saying to him. Maybe because of his representatives, who knows?”
Partial transcript provided via CNN:
DON LEMON: Let me tell you this. And Joey, I know this. You can — a good lawyer can get you off just about anything, right, or reduce whatever it is that you’re going to suffer.
In the court of public opinion, Jussie has lost.
JOEY JACKSON: Right.
LEMON: He’s lost the fight in the court of public opinion.
MIDWIN CHARLES: Yes.
LEMON: And that’s where his battle is. Whether — legally, if he has to go — whatever he has to serve, if it’s jail time, if he has to do probation, if he has to pay whatever. But in the court of public opinion —
JACKSON: It matters.
LEMON: It matters. And he lost that because of how — and not his fault. Maybe people were — I don’t know what they were saying to him. Maybe because of his representatives, who knows?
JACKSON: I don’t know if it’s not his fault —
LEMON: But it was handled poorly.
JACKSON: I don’t know if it’s not his fault, Don. The fact is —
LEMON: You think it’s his fault? You think he was doing what he wants?
JACKSON: Well, he went out and he gave the interview. So, understand this from — now let’s talk from a defense perspective. There’s two things to think about. Number one is the law and whether it makes sense legally to be out there speaking and everything else.
From that perspective, it’s damning.
JACKSON: All those things you heard him say on TV are going to be played in a courtroom —
CHARLES: That’s right.
JACKSON: — in the event this goes to trial and it’s going to crush him.
JACKSON: Now, from a public relations imperative, you had people say get in front of the cameras, express what happened. Show some, you know, show some real anger. Show some this, that, the other. The fact is that works from a public relations perspective but —
(CROSSTALK) CHARLES: Exactly.
JACKSON: — but it doesn’t work in this.
LEMON: It doesn’t work. And listen, again, I want you to — I have nothing but the utmost respect for my friends at ABC and other things. They — and Robin did a terrific job on that interview. I’m just talking about how you respond to this sort of crisis. That doesn’t really work anymore, and I think that is old school. This is playing out every single moment.
LEMON: In cable news. Sean Hannity is going to eat Jussie Smollett’s lunch every single second. Tucker Carlson is going to eat Jussie Smollett’s lunch every single second.
JACKSON: The President of the United States —
LEMON: The President of the United States is going to eat his lunch. And who does the president of the United States watch every night?
LEMON: Cable news. Well, cable news. And so that’s all I’m saying. That’s all I’m saying.