Project 21 national advisory council member Emery McClendon talked with AFP’s Dave Gahary about the response of many black Americans to the recent two-tier system of justice on display when wealthy Hollywood star Jussie Smollett was let off easy for reporting a fake hate crime.
By Dave Gahary
While the Windy City has a well-deserved reputation for corruption and scandal, the latest imbroglio to roll through the city’s crime-ridden streets caught even the most jaded Chicago watchers off guard. Now, even those who have given up watching TV know the name “Jussie” Smollett and have been plainly shown that super-rich Hollywood stars are afforded preferential “justice.”
California-born Justin Smollett (1982) began his career as a child actor at the age of five, but it wasn’t until 2014 that Smollett hit it big, landing a role in the series “Empire” portraying a gay musician. According to The Hollywood Reporter, he was earning $2.25 million a season, though there were rumors his contract was not going to be renewed. Is that the reason, people are asking, why Smollett felt it necessary to stage several fake hate crimes against himself?
According to law enforcement sources, on Jan. 22, a letter arrived addressed to Smollett at the Chicago studios where “Empire” is filmed, depicting “a stick figure hanging from a tree with a gun pointing towards it.” Scrawled on the letter: “Smollett, Jussie you will die,” and the now-four-letter-word “MAGA” (Make America Great Again) in red letters. The letter also contained white powder—prompting a response from a HAZMAT unit—which was later determined to be aspirin or Tylenol. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service are investigating whether the actor had something to do with the letter, which now appears likely.
A week later, Smollett claimed, he was attacked by two white thugs wearing MAGA hats, who launched into a tirade of racist and homophobic slurs, then battered Smollett “about the face,” topping that off by pouring bleach on him and slinging a noose around his neck.
Smollett first entered a hotel with the rope still left conveniently around his neck, kept it on until police arrived to investigate, then “reported” to a hospital, and employed his acting skills, claiming the “attack” was “motivated by his criticism of the Trump administration,” and was linked to the aforementioned letter.
The usual left-leaning cast of characters rallied around Smollett, including Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris (Calif.) and Cory Booker (N.J.), who both described the reported attack as a “modern-day lynching.” These two possible U.S. presidential candidates then used the “hate crime” to promote their anti-lynching bill.
Initially investigated as a hate crime, the overburdened Chicago Police Department later determined the actor orchestrated the event. The two “racists” who “attacked” Smollett were two “Nigerian brothers with a professional connection to Smollett”—identified from surveillance video—who told law enforcement investigating the incident “that Smollett was upset the letter didn’t get enough attention.”
A few weeks after the “crime,” two Chicago police sources told CNN, “Chicago police had discovered evidence indicating that Smollett had paid the two brothers $3,500 to stage the attack.” Additionally, financial records show that the Nigerians bought the “noose” at a hardware store, and they were caught on security camera footage in the clothing store where they bought the ski masks, gloves, and red hat they used in the “attack.” The clothing store didn’t carry any MAGA hats, although the brothers asked if they did.
As evidence continued to mount that Smollett was the mastermind of the hate crime hoax, and he was arrested and indicted on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct for repeatedly lying to law enforcement, the entire nation was floored when it was announced that all criminal charges had been dropped and that the case was then sealed by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office.
Reaction was swift and severe from many quarters, including the mayor of Chicago, who sent a letter to Smollett’s attorneys for “immediate payment of $130,106.15 to resolve this matter without further legal action . . . within seven days.”
Demonstrations are continuing to erupt in Chicago over this matter, with “a group led by the city police union demanding the resignation of the Cook County state’s attorney and another group led by civil rights leader Jesse Jackson supporting the embattled prosecutor.”
Especially irked over this was much of America’s black community, revolted by the blatant double standard in light of the high prosecution and incarceration rates for blacks committing much lesser offenses.
To gain some insight into this, American Free Press spoke with U.S. Air Force veteran, tea party organizer, and member of Project 21’s national advisory council, Indiana native Emery McClendon. According to its website, “Project 21 is an initiative of the National Center for Public Policy Research to promote the views of African-Americans whose entrepreneurial spirit, dedication to family, and commitment to individual responsibility have not traditionally been echoed by the nation’s civil rights establishment.”
Emery commented on the preferential treatment of the wealthy actor:
[Instead of doing time, Mr. Smollett] has been given the opportunity to work for Operation Push, which is Jesse Jackson’s operation in Chicago.
Mr. Smollett performed a few tasks for them and everything is going to be wiped clean. The problem that [Project 21] has with that—and also after hearing some of the comments from the black community around the country in social media and so forth—is that Mr. Smollett seems to have gained a lot of privilege simply because of who he is and what he is and what he is doing in the Hollywood scene. . . .
So that shows . . . favoritism for this celebrity and at the same time they see other people from their communities—black people that they know, people that they deal with—that are not only being prosecuted, but incarcerated, and paying humongous fines. . . .
This is very blatant. This “tier system” [of justice] seems to be on broad and open display here and we have [spoken] out against it.
McClendon believes that black people should be rightfully outraged over Smollett’s slap on the wrist:
A lot of people in the black community are complaining because they are saying that it is unfair because that is not the way they are being treated when they go through the criminal justice system; that for any little infraction—whether it be a misdemeanor or a felony—they have to go through the complete process: hire an attorney, go into a court of law (unless there’s no evidence against them). But this is not going to happen with Jussie Smollett.
Of course, while dozens of black people are being murdered on the streets of Chicago every day, city police had to waste time investigating this phony hate crime. Said McClendon:
And you have a police department that has a problem with shootings—[Chicago has] one of the largest number of shootings year after year after year—and the police department had to go out and waste hours and hours of manpower on this [fake hate crime] while all these shootings and murders are still going on. But you have a limited number of resources and [the police] can’t investigate those crimes because they have wasted all that time [on the Jussie Smollett case].
Can you imagine what those officers felt like who went out and pounded the streets to find witnesses and gather evidence and present that to the chief and prosecutors?
Incredibly, Smollett was up for an NAACP Image Award—for “outstanding achievements and performances of people of color in the arts”—announced after the hate crime hoax, something Project 21 strongly opposes.
We have already spoken out on this and said that the award should be rescinded because of what [Smollett] has done here as far as the lying and as far as the false charges and the 16 felony counts. He was arrested for that and charged with that and is going to get away with that. What kind of a message does that send to the black community, the young people and also to those who are already incarcerated? And many of these [prisoners] have really been incarcerated unfairly and didn’t get a fair trial. And now here he is not going to get anything. . . .
McClendon was also irked that Smollett seemed to have gotten some help from “higher up”:
There are also rumors of some outside interference. Because of ties or because of who you know and who you’re associated with, you can find yourself on the positive side of prosecution where things just automatically get dropped, and then there’s no explanation for it. And people don’t like this because they know they don’t have that type of privilege. . . . This is really a troubling situation here. . . .
McClendon may have been referring to the mysterious involvement of former First Lady Michelle Obama’s chief of staff, Tina Tchen, who appears to have successfully pressured Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx to drop the charges against Smollett—and seal the case so no one can ever find out the real facts.
As for whether or not the Smollett case is over and done with, McClendon isn’t so sure:
It’s going to be interesting how this whole thing plays out in the awards ceremony—whether this will even be mentioned or brought up by the media or the NAACP. But I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this as far as people filing complaints and so forth, asking for justice to be done. . . . It’s a very unfortunate thing . . . a mind-perplexing thing.
The good news is that, according to multiple sources, the dismissal of the state’s case has not impacted an ongoing federal probe into Smollett’s fake hate crimes. Time will tell if Smollett will ever receive the impartial justice he deserves.
Dave Gahary, a former submariner in the U.S. Navy, prevailed in a suit brought by the New York Stock Exchange in an attempt to silence him. Dave is the producer of an upcoming full-length feature film about the attack on the USS Liberty. See erasingtheliberty.com for more information and to get the new book on which the movie will be based, Erasing the Liberty.