MSNBC Guest Suggests Chicago Police Framing Smollett, Receives No Pushback

February 22, 2019

An MSNBC guest suggested Thursday the Chicago police were lying to the public and potentially framing actor Jussie Smollett, with no pushback from anchor Kasie Hunt.

Smollett was charged Thursday with disorderly conduct by filing a false police report, after claiming for weeks he was the victim of a hate crime at the hands of two Donald Trump supporters. Police said Smollett paid two brothers he knew to attack him as part of an elaborate hoax, stemming from dissatisfaction with his pay on the show "Empire."

During coverage of Smollett's bail hearing, Zach Stafford, editor-in-chief of the LGBT magazine the Advocate, said there was reason to disbelieve the Chicago police narrative, accusing the department of being Trump supporters. The police played up Smollett as a victim at the beginning in order to "use it against him at the end," Stafford said. It was Smollett who said he was a victim all along, of course.

"A lot of the time, people on the background were worried that [the police] were leaning into this victim part of the story, because they didn't believe him, and they wanted to use it against him at the end when they were able to prove that he was lying," he said.

Historically, he claimed, Chicago police did not leak information on a case so rapidly, accusing them of confirming and not confirming certain stories about the investigation.

"People have a lot of reason to not trust them," he said. "I mean, as [Al Sharpton] has pointed out, Chicago has a deep history of openly lying to citizens. This police department did in 2016 openly, through their union, support Donald Trump. And a lot of this case has been focused on the MAGA statements, and the far right's really clung to them. So many people have felt that they've been so willing to call this a hoax, because the central question of this case was, 'Are Donald Trump supporters out here committing hate crimes?'"

"That's what really sparked a lot of attention. So to have a police department that hasn't been as cooperative as they have been this round, do not openly give information, do openly lie, and [withhold] information in cases, and then to know they have openly supported Donald Trump in the 2016 election, a lot of activists on the ground are saying, 'Wait, what's going on here? Who do we believe out of these two suspect people?"'

Hunt moved on to field reporter Ron Mott without pushing back on Stafford's vague claims.

Investigators said Smollett rehearsed his own assault, and they say they have phone records showing he spoke to the brothers who "attacked" him one hour before and after the incident on Jan. 29. They also have a copy of the $3,500 check Smollett used to pay them, video of the brothers at the scene, and text messages with Smollett, in addition to the brothers' testimony on how they were hired, the New York Times reported.