CNN analyst Van Jones says the arrest of actor Jussie Smollett is like losing an American “icon” in ways the population doesn’t fully comprehend.
Charges of felony disorderly conduct and filing a false police report have the potential to land the “Empire” actor in prison for up to three years (in addition to a requirement to reimburse the Chicago Police Department for its investigation).
That development — only weeks after politicians, celebrities, and media outlets disseminated his story far and wide — has left Mr. Jones distraught.
“This is the fall of an icon, and I don’t think people understand how important he has been in the black community,” he told a CNN panel Wednesday. “‘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.”
Mr. Smollett claimed that he was attacked in Chicago on Jan. 29 by two men wielding a rope and a canister of bleach. He also appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” to talk about the incident, which he said included a “MAGA country!” taunt.
Brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo told police during their investigation that they were paid by the “Empire” star to take part in an orchestrated beating.
“Whatever he is going through to do what he did has hurt the cause against racism and the cause against homophobia — if it’s true,” Mr. Jones said. “If there is any way that this can be redeemed I hope it can be, but he owes those same young black gay men that he was addressing in that interview, he owes them not just an apology but a lifetime of atonement because this ain’t nothing to play with.”
• Douglas Ernst can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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