- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 30, 2019

Jussie Smollett could have capped a wild week by winning an acting award at the 2019 NAACP Image Awards, but it was apparently not to be.

Mr. Smollett, a nominee for outstanding supporting actor in a drama series for his role on “Empire,” lost out to Jesse Williams of “Grey’s Anatomy” at an untelevised dinner Friday leading up to Saturday’s ceremony at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, according to ABC News.

Mr. Smollett, 36, did not attend the Friday awards dinner, although he had reportedly flown to Los Angeles after Tuesday’s court appearance in Chicago, where all charges against him related to the false reporting of a hate crime were dismissed.

Organizers of the 50th annual awards presentation, to be televised by TV One, had come under pressure to scratch Mr. Smollett from the list of nominees after the actor, who is black and gay, was indicted earlier this month on 16 felony counts.

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office dropped the case even though lead prosecutor Joseph Magats said he thought Mr. Smollett was guilty of charges stemming from his report of a Jan. 29 attack in Chicago, which police said he staged. Mr. Smollett has denied the charges.

The stunning decision prompted accusations that Mr. Smollett received special treatment based on his celebrity status and political connections, which state’s attorney Kim Foxx has denied. President Trump said the FBI and Justice Department are reviewing the decision.

Project21, a black conservative leadership network, had argued that Mr. Smollett should have been removed from awards contention even after the charges were dropped, calling the prosecution’s decision a “crass display of celebrity privilege.”

“This case stands for one clear proposition—regardless of color. In America today, people of wealth and privilege can escape accountability for the same acts that mainstream Americans cannot,” said Project 21 co-chairman Horace Cooper. “This deal stinks, and it makes a mockery of the idea that all Americans are equal before the law.”

Awards show host Anthony Anderson, star of “Black-ish,” said Wednesday he hoped Mr. Smollett would win.

“I hope to see him here,” Mr. Anderson told Variety. “I hope he wins. I’m happy for him that the system worked for him in his favor because the system isn’t always fair, especially for people of color.”



The actor has maintained that he was attacked on a freezing night by two men in ski masks who splashed him with a chemical substance believed to be bleach, put a rope around his neck, and called him racist and homophobic slurs.

Conservative radio show host Larry Elder said earlier this week that Mr. Smollett should remain under consideration for the acting honor.

“Why remove him?” Mr. Elder, who is black, said in an email. “After all, Smollett did an outstanding a job in playing the race AND gay card while acting as if he’d been attacked by two Trump supporting goons carrying bleach and a noose.”

Mr. Smollett had been nominated for his portrayal of Jamal Lyon on the Fox Entertainment series for four years in a row and won in 2017.

Jussie Smollett has always maintained his innocence, and we are gratified on his behalf that all charges against him have been dismissed,” said Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment in a Tuesday statement.

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