After Empire actor Jussie Smollett turned himself in to Chicago police on felony charges of disorderly conduct for allegedly staging a hate-crime assault, CNN political commentator Van Jones lamented the ordeal as the “fall of an icon” in the black community and a “tragedy beyond words.”
During a Thursday press conference following Smollett’s arrest, Chicago Police Department superintendent Eddie Johnson expressed anger and frustration over the details of Smollett’s alleged hoax, noting that the entertainer paid two brothers $3,500 to orchestrate the attack because he was “dissatisfied with his salary” on Empire. Johnson further said that Smollett “took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.”
Following the presser, Jones acknowledged that Smollett likely staging a hate crime and blaming it on Trump supporters was the “opposite” of bringing people together.
“This is the fall of an icon,” Jones asserted. “I don’t think people understand how important he has been in the black community. 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.”
Adding that Smollett was the “Jackie Robinson against homophobia in the black community,” Jones observed that the level of betrayal seen here is “deep.” Furthermore, Jones stated that if the charges are true, the actor has “hurt the cause against racism and the cause against homophobia.”
After saying that Smollett owes the community a “lifetime of atonement,” Jones reiterated that this looked like the “fall of an icon.”
“When you talk to people about this—it is a lot deeper than just a hoax,” he emotionally concluded. “This is something we haven't had someone like him in our community embrace in this way. We haven't had a show like Empire. And for him, if in fact, he has abused his position, it is a tragedy beyond words in our community.”