When Jussie Smollett said last month that two men using racial and homophobic slurs attacked him in Chicago, supporters of the actor almost immediately expressed their anger.
Now that he’s been arrested and accused of filing a false report, his doubters are the ones being the most vocal on social media.
Jussie Smollett arrested: Live updates
“#JussieSmollett is one of the reason our nation is racially divided. Just keep blacks hating whites & whites hating blacks,” Pastor Mark Burns, an African-American conservative pundit from South Carolina, tweeted after news of the latest developments broke. “Why do some black Americans think we have a pass when it comes to spreading racial hate & division. We MUST come together. We are more alike than different.”
Under Illinois law, filing a false police report is disorderly conduct and punishable by one to three years.
Smollett was arrested Thursday morning on suspicion of filing a false report. The actor paid $3,500 to stage an attack on himself, taking “advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Chicago police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson said Thursday at a news conference.
“Bogus police reports cause real harm,” Johnson said. “I am offended by what’s happened, and I’m also angry.”
Jussie Smollett paid $3,500 to stage attack, hoping to promote his career, police allege
The actor has denied playing a role in his attack, his attorneys have said.
“Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked,” his attorneys said in a statement.
“Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”
On Thursday, a judge granted $100,000 bail and Smollett paid a $10,000 bond. He was ordered to give up his passport and will remain under supervision until his case is adjudicated.
Smollett has stood by his story from the beginning.
The “Empire” star has told authorities two men who were “yelling out racial and homophobic slurs” assaulted him on January 29. He said one attacker put a rope around his neck and poured an unknown chemical substance on him.
Fans, colleagues, politicians, fellow celebrities and social media observers quickly rallied behind Smollett, who told authorities one attacker said to him, “This MAGA country n****r.”
Two men, brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, were arrested February 13 in connection with the incident but released without charges Friday after police cited the discovery of “new evidence.”
The two are no longer suspects, Chicago police have said.
Smollett had several high-profile supporters early on, including Sen. Cory Booker, now a Democratic presidential hopeful, who tweeted at the time, “The vicious attack on actor Jussie Smollett was an attempted modern-day lynching.”
Some of Smollett’s supporters began to adopt more of a wait-and-see attitude as the story shifted, with police sources telling CNN the actor was suspected of orchestrating the alleged attack.
As Jussie Smollett story takes a turn, reaction shifts to wait and see
Others, such as director Ava DuVernay, questioned the credibility of the Chicago Police Department in its dealings with people of color.
“Despite the inconsistencies, I can’t blindly believe Chicago PD. The department that covered up shooting Laquan McDonald over a dozen times? That operated an off-site torture facility?” DuVernay wrote in a tweet Sunday before the actor’s arrest. “That one? I’ll wait. Whatever the outcome, this won’t stop me from believing others. It can’t.”
There have been skeptics of Smollett’s story from the beginning.
Some of the anger directed toward him came from those who feared the case could negatively affect crime victims if the attack was staged.
“How egotistical of @JussieSmollett to diminish the validity of those who have been victims of serious heinous crimes?” one person tweeted. “His HWood entitled elitist arrogant attitude has hurt millions of ppl!”
Rolling Stone writer Jamil Smith tweeted, “Nothing good will come of this.”
“Leaving Jussie’s fate and motives aside for the moment, I fear that we don’t know the true victims yet,” Smith wrote. “There will be folks who use this as justification for not believing accusers of every stripe. They were already cowards.”
Still, others offered comfort to Smollett’s supporters.
“You don’t have to feel bad for supporting Jussie Smollett in the beginning,” one person tweeted. “People have lost their lives to racism, hate crimes and homophobia and the decent thing to do is to show them love and support. You did what was human and right - listening to victims.”
CNN’s Joe Sutton contributed to this report.