Chicago Police Superintendent: Smollett Used 'Pain and Anger of Racism to Promote His Career'

By Susan Jones | February 21, 2019 | 10:31am EST
Chicago Police took "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett into custody on Thursday for filing a false police report. This is his mug shot. (Photo from Chicago PD)

( - In a blistering condemnation of "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson on Thursday said the suspect "took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career."

"I just wish that the families of gun violence in the city got this much attention," Johnson told a news conference after Smollett was taken into custody. "Because that's who really deserves the amount of attention that we have given to this particular incident."

Johnson said Smollett first sent a homophobic "hate" letter to himself. When that didn't work, Smollett paid $3,500 to stage a fake racist attack on himself "and drag Chicago's reputation through the mud in the process," Johnson said.

Johnson said Smollett did it "because he was dissatisfied with his salary. So he concocted a story about being attacked."

Johnson made it clear he takes the stunt personally:

This morning, I come to you not only as the superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, but also as a black man who spent his entire life living in the city of Chicago. I know the racial divide that exists here. I know how hard it has been for our city and our nation to come together. I also know the disparities, and I know the history.

This announcement today recognizes that "Empire" actor, Jussie Smollett, took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career. I am left hanging my head and asking why? Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations? How could someone look at the hatred and suffering associated with that symbol, and see an opportunity to manipulate that symbol to further his own public profile? How can an individual who has been embraced by the City of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in this city in the face by making these false claims?

Bogus police reports cause real harm. They do harm to every legitimate victim who's in need of support by police and investigators as well as the citizens of the city. Chicago hosts one of the largest pride parades and the world, and we are proud of that, as a police department and also as a city.

We do not, nor will we ever tolerate hate in our city, whether that hate is based on an individual's sexual orientation, race, or anything else. So I'm offended by what's happened, and I'm also angry. I love the City of Chicago. And the Chicago Police department, warts and all. But this publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn't earn and certainly didn't deserve.

At the end of the news conference, Johnson said "Absolute justice would be an apology to this city that he smeared, admitting what he did, and then be man enough to offer what he should offer up in terms of all the resources that were put into this."

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