Last month the Chicago Police Department dealt with what an officer friend of mine calls an "acute political event." That's when you've just pulled over the mayor's son for an obvious DWI. Or in this case, it's when a TV actor reports he was attacked by two men on the streets of your city just because he is black and gay. An acute political event puts you as a law enforcement officer and maybe even your whole agency into a no-win situation.
And that's exactly what has happened to the Chicago PD in the Jussie Smollett hate crime case, which is now reportedly a hoax. Smollett, who is African American and openly gay, reported early Jan. 29 that two white men called him racial and homophobic slurs, beat him, doused him with bleach, and put a rope around his neck. He told police he fought them off and they fled after telling him, "This is MAGA country," a reference to President Trump.
From the beginning, Chicago police must have felt this story had serious problems. It was really cold at the time of the attack, so these were some dedicated racist gay bashers. Smollett said they called out to him by the name of his show followed by the slurs. How would these guys have known who he was? Were they stalking him? If so, why? Smollett is a performer on a show called "Empire" with a mostly black cast. It's not exactly must-see TV for racists. Finally, the extent of Smollett's injuries did not match the kind of attack he reported. Gay bashings tend to be really vicious. Smollett had a few scratches and bruises. His face was not disfigured; his smile was intact.
The detectives working this case must have immediately heard hoax alarms. But God love them, they were in the trick bag. They had to work the case until they could prove Smollett was attacked or the whole thing was BS.
These detectives were especially in a no-win situation because the case became a bloody shirt that Democratic politicians, Hollywood liberals, LGBTQ activists, and others could wave at the Trump administration to accuse the president and his supporters of being Nazis. Even the president came out and said it was horrible.
It was horrible. But reportedly not for the reasons the president thought. Chicago authorities now say the Smollett attack was an absurd plot to raise the actor's celebrity profile and shake more out of the producers of "Empire." Smollett already makes more than $1 million annually off the show, so if true, this was some serious greed. Smollett now faces a felony charge for filing a false police report and those big checks from "Empire" are about to stop coming. For the record, Smollett and his lawyers say the attack really happened and he is innocent.
Not many people, including many of his former liberal, celebrity, and LGBTQ supporters, believe him. The evidence outlined by Chicago PD Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson is damning. Smollett allegedly paid two men to do the attack—with a check—and those two guys are singing. There are also phone records, social media records, and other digital footprints.
It's been reported that as many as two dozen detectives worked the Smollett case. And if all this evidence holds true, they did a wonderful job. Superintendent Johnson praised their efforts multiple times during the press conference announcing the findings in the case. He also slammed Smollett for wasting what has to be thousands of hours of labor by those detectives and other officers who could be working real cases. "That's resources that we will never get back," Johnson told the press.
Johnson also slammed Smollett for the nature of his alleged hoax. "He took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to advance his career," Johnson said angrily. Asked by one reporter what he wanted Smollett to do, Johnson said he should apologize, admit his crime, and pay the city back for the resources he wasted.
That would be the honorable thing to do. But if he did the things the police say he did, I don't see much honor in the character of Jussie Smollett. Instead I believe his attorneys will attack the Chicago PD with charges of racism. I don't think this acute political event is over and there are still plenty of tricks left in the bag.