Rep. Rush Slams Smollett's 'Despicable' Actions

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) who rushed to the defense of Empire actor Jessie Smollett after he was allegedly the target of a racist and homophobic attack, was as swift to condemn him after Chicago police arrested him and charged him with staging his own attack because he was dissatisfied with his salary on the Fox show.

Rush had almost immediately called on FBI Director Christopher Wray to conduct a "sweeping" civil rights investigation and sought support for anti-lynching legislation—Smollett was found with a noose around his neck, though police say that was all part of the staged event.

“Like many Americans, I was shocked when I heard about the alleged attack on Jussie Smollett," Rush said Thursday (Feb. 21) after Smollett's claim unraveled.

“But, now we know that this reported attack was a total and complete lie. I am beyond disappointed and extremely infuriated at Smollett’s brazen, devious, and disgraceful behavior. I am outraged that he orchestrated an inflammatory story, which he knew would further divide this nation. He was aware that hate crimes are on the rise and — in an act of self-centered desperation and stupidity — he tried to inject himself into the center of a narrative that is rightfully focused on actual victims.

“I remain baffled that he would stoop to such a low level and he should be ashamed of himself for this selfish and immoral act. I commend the Chicago Police Department and their law enforcement partners for their relentless search for the truth and call on them to hold Smollett fully accountable for his disgusting, deplorable, and despicable actions.

“I hope that Smollett is aware that his stunt has made it harder for real victims to be believed and has caused them to relive their victimization, both from being attacked and from having their stories called into question. I hope Smollett is aware that his reprehensible behavior may make it harder for real victims to come forward and their journey for justice more difficult. But I hope they can find comfort in the outcome of this case and know that what’s done in the dark will come to light.”

Fox, which airs Empire, would only say it was considering its options regarding the actor.

“We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process," 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment said in a statement. "We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options.”

Smollett's legal team said that he "fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence," according to various news outlets.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.