Reports of actor Jussie Smollett’s having been attacked by a pair of men in “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) hats is being proven untrue. A few weeks ago, Smollett described an attack that included a noose, pouring bleach on the actor and yelling racist and homophobic slurs.
Now that the actor’s televised interview has been analyzed, and worse, the two men on a surveillance tape believed to have been connected with the crime, have since come forward and admitted that Smollett paid them to attack him. There is also footage from the retail store where the two purchased the items used in the attack showing them buying the items used in the incident.
The public drama that is playing out is one thing, as it is unclear what Smollett’s fate is on the show, “Empire” where he plays the gay son of a music moguls. The larger impact of Smollett’s claim is that future claims might be looked at with greater suspicion, meaning, authorities might be skeptical of such claims in the future.
The idea that Smollett could be harming the cases of those involved with legitimate claims is more than hypothetical. As reports of hate crimes rise, how many of those will be seen as staged or false because of this incident? In an era when social movements aim to help potential victims speak up, false claims might have the opposite effect and mute them.
Smollett turned himself into police and was released on $100,000 bond.
Jussie Smollett’s connection to others who made false claims
While much has been made of Smollett’s motivation, there does not seem to be a clear idea about that as of yet, Smollett actions do bear similarities to others who have made false claims.
The first person that comes to mind is teenager Tawana Brawley. In 1987, approximately 15-year-old Brawley, from Wappingers Falls, New York, claimed that she had been raped by four white men. She had been found covered in trash and feces and had racial slurs written on her body.
Brawley, who is black American, quickly became the focus of a great deal of media attention and her case was plead in the media by Al Sharpton. Other prominent black Americans pledged money to Brawley’s case, and for her education. Ultimately, a grand jury did not find her story credible. The men accused of attacking Brawley included a police officer and a prosecuting attorney. Their professions didn’t clear them – – rather, it was a lack of evidence.
Like Smollett’s case, Brawley’s claims are viewed as a setback for those who have been victims of actual crimes of the same nature. When people make things up, it is a waste of police resources and makes an already jaded public even more cynical when the next crime is reported.
Celebrities have begun taking Smollett to task. One outspoken critic of the Smollett case is late night comedian Trevor Noah. Noah, who is mixed race and South African, unleashed a tirade against Smollett on Thursday night. Among other things, the Daily Mail and other report that Noah berated Smollett for leaving a “paper trail” that included writing a check to the men he hired to attack him. Because he is a comedian, all of Noah’s points of contention were given as jokes, including his final assertion that people will hate the actor for “being an a–hole” instead of being black, and that’s progress.”
The checks are an uncomfortable bit of evidence for those looking to defend the actor.
For those with psychological backgrounds, finding out what causes people to behave this way could prove interesting. Certainly the motivation for false reporting goes beyond the need for attention. Or perhaps it doesn’t. Fans of “Empire” will have to wait and see in regard to Smollett’s future on the show.