LGBTI advocacy groups have expressed ‘disappointment’ and ‘frustration’ after gay actor Jussie Smollett was charged with staging his own attack.
Smollett, star of TV series Empire, was earlier charged with staging an assault he claims was racially motivated.
Chicago police described the incident as a ‘publicity stunt’ which the actor was using to gain a pay rise.
He has since been released on a $100,000 bail.
A number of high profile figures have expressed shock and anger over the latest developments, including US President Donald Trump and rapper Cardi B.
Equal rights organizations have expressed concern that Smollett’s case will cast doubt on other instances of reported hate crimes or homophobic attacks.
‘Devastating & frustrating’
Numerous LGBTI advocacy groups have expressed their disappointment, while also expressing concern about a potential backlash.
Chad Griffin, the president of LGBTI rights group Human Rights Campaign, tweeted: ‘Today’s news about #JussieSmollett is both devastating & frustrating. But I want to ask everyone feeling angry, hurt & disappointed to channel that into productive activism – because there are thousands targeted by hate violence each year who need our help’
Today’s news about #JussieSmollett is both devastating & frustrating. But I want to ask everyone feeling angry, hurt & disappointed to channel that into productive activism – because there are thousands targeted by hate violence each year who need our help https://t.co/PHtsVsUYUN
— Chad Griffin (@ChadHGriffin) February 21, 2019
Fellow LGBTI rights group GLAAD released a joint statement with online racial justice organization, Color of Change.
‘As we learn more details about Jussie’s arrest, we remain focussed on the fight against very real issues of racism, homophobia, and hate violence,’ the statement read.
‘The FBI data shows that hate crimes are on the rise nationwide, a fact that stands regardless of Smollett’s arrest.
‘While Jussie’s situation is troubling and concerning, anyone who is a victim of hate violence should never hesitate to speak out or express their stories.’
— GLAAD (@glaad) February 21, 2019
‘Do not be distracted by Mr. Smollett’s alleged staged attack’
The Los Angeles LGBT Center released a statement saying: ‘The confusing and deeply unfortunate circumstances surrounding Jussie Smollett should not cloud the sobering facts about hate crimes in our nation.
‘According to a report released by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, hate crimes in our country’s largest cities increased for the fifth consecutive year in 2018—with Los Angeles receiving its highest level of hate crime reports in a decade,’ the statement continued.
‘Do not be distracted by Mr. Smollett’s alleged staged attack. Hate crimes, particularly against people of color and the LGBT community, are real and on the rise. These facts should alarm all of us.’
The group also advised anyone who had experienced anti-LGBTI hate crimes to contact them for advice and assistance.
‘A shameful […] publicity stunt’
Smollett had said that the perpetrators poured bleach on him, tied a noose around his neck, and racially abused him while shouting pro-Trump slogans.
TOMORROW: An @ABC EXCLUSIVE: @RobinRoberts sits down one-on-one with @JussieSmollett who says he’s “pissed off” after being attacked in possible hate crime. “How do you not believe that? It’s the truth.” See the interview TOMORROW on @GMA. https://t.co/b5efiOJ8L8 pic.twitter.com/bpvnHUnz8W
— Good Morning America (@GMA) February 13, 2019
But the case has since taken a sharp turn.
Police began to have doubts about his account after arresting two brothers linked to the actor.
The authorities went on to charge Smollett, claiming that he’d paid the brothers $3,500 to help him stage the attack.
Chicago Police Chief Eddie Johnson described the incident as a ‘hoax’ and a ‘shameful […] publicity stunt’.
‘How can an individual who has been embraced by the city of Chicago, turn around and slap everyone in this city in the face?’ Johnson added.
“How can an individual who has been embraced by the city of Chicago, turn around and slap everyone in this city in the face,” says CPD Superintendent Eddie Johnson. Jussie Smollett turned himself in around 5 a.m., police said. “Bogus police reports cause real harm.” pic.twitter.com/jo0FNYXouc
— CBS Chicago (@cbschicago) February 21, 2019
After initially receiving an outpouring of support, numerous high-profile figures have since publicly condemned Smollett.
President Donald Trump weighed in on the controversy, tweeting scathing remarks about the actor’s alleged crime.
‘[email protected] – what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!? #MAGA,’ the president tweeted, referencing his ‘Make American Great Again’ presidential campaign slogan.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 21, 2019
Cardi B also said that Smollett ‘fucked up Black History Month’ in a video posted on Instagram.
Smollett was later spotted on the set of Empire several hours after being released on bail.
The actor apologized to his costars though insisted that he is innocent, CNN reports.
Fox, which produces the show, released a statement in support of Smollett on 20 February.
‘Jussie Smollett continues to be a consummate professional on set and as we have previously stated, he is not being written out of the show,’ they said.