On Monday, NBC’s Today show was the only network morning broadcast to inform viewers that actor Jussie Smollett was facing a new trial over lying to investigators in his 2019 media-hyped hoax smearing Trump supporters.
After giving the actor air time to spread lies about the supposed attack on Good Morning America in 2019, ABC passed on the latest development. CBS Mornings also ignored the actor going to trial again, after the initial 16 charges against him were controversially dropped by the George Soros-supported prosecutor initially.
NBC’s Megan Fitzgerald updated audiences on the major new development in the three-year-old story that captivated the media at the time:
“This long delayed trial marks the latest chapter in this strange saga. The former Empire star claiming he was the victim of a racist attack in downtown Chicago but as his story came under scrutiny, it started to fall apart,” Fitzgerald stated.
Smollett's fake story wasn’t believable to any reasonable person from the beginning, but the media still ran with it because it fit their narrative.
After playing a clip of Smollett celebrating after the “controversial decision” by the prosecutor to drop all charges in favor of community service, the reporter noted that decision was later overruled in 2020:
That agreement, later overruled after a special prosecutor reinvestigated the case and found abuse of discretion and operational failures by the Cook County state attorney. In February 2020, a new grand jury indicted Smollett on six felony disorderly conduct charges for lying to police...
The NBC reporter wasn’t shy in calling the case “bizarre” and “strange.” Of course it was. But at the time, the media bought Smollett’s story of being brutally attacked by Trump-supporting racists in downtown Chicago, hook line and sinker. In fact, morning and evening news broadcasts devoted 157 minutes to hyping his story before it was exposed as fake.
It’s understandable that ABC’s Good Morning America would pass on the update. Their anchor Robin Roberts embarrassed herself with a softball interview that refused to pass any judgement or scrutiny on the actor for his tall tale. Instead she flattered him with questions that suggested his story should be believed by everyone, like:
...What do you say to a young gay man, a young gay person?
...If the attackers are never found, how will you be able to heal?
...Have you ever been threatened before?
As Smollett’s case unraveled, Roberts tried to save face after her shamefully soft interview just a few weeks later on GMA saying, “[T]here were a lot of red flags that a lot of people saw.”
CBS was also uninterested in sharing how the liberal actor was now facing repercussions for his lies, although the network did spend significantly less time than ABC and NBC did hyping the hoax.
Instead of reporting on Smollett’s trial, ABC ironically did a report on a “true story of domestic terrorism” about white supremacists in Kansas. Why not contrast that real story with Smollett's fake one?
CBS, meanwhile, was fascinated with entertainment stories but not an actor going to trial. They spent significant time on Kevin Hart’s new movie, Tony Bennett’s final concert, and the history of hip hop music instead.
Read the NBC transcript below:
NBC Today Show
HODA KOTB: Nearly three years after actor Jussie Smollett reported he was the victim of a hate crime he will go on trial accused of staging the whole thing. Smollett has pleaded not guilty. NBC’s Megan Fitzgerald is in Chicago with the latest. Good morning Megan.
MEGAN FITZGERALD: Good morning. This long delayed trial marks the latest chapter in this strange saga. The former "Empire" star claiming he was the victim of a racist attack in downtown Chicago but as his story came under scrutiny, it started to fall apart. This is actor Jussie Smollett in 2019, celebrating after prosecutors made the controversial decision to drop criminal charges against him, instead, ordering him to perform community service.
JUSSIE SMOLLETT: I've been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one.
FITZGERALD: That agreement, later overruled after a special prosecutor reinvestigated the case and found abuse of discretion and operational failures by the Cook County state attorney. In February 2020, a new grand jury indicted Smollett on six felony disorderly conduct charges for lying to police. The bizarre case began on a cold night in Chicago, Smollett told police he was coming home from Subway around 2:00 A.M. when he says two men attacked him while yelling racist and homophobic slurs, put bleach on him and put a noose around his neck.
After putting hundreds of hours into investigating the case, police say Smollett's alleged attackers were two brothers from Nigeria that Smollett paid $3500 to stage the attack. The Osundairo brothers have expressed regret for their part in the alleged scheme and are expected to testify for the prosecution. They have not been charged with a crime. Over the summer, Smollett's attorney accused the special prosecutor of political motives, writing in a statement, ‘Mr. Smollett is innocent of these charges and now we are focused on moving forward to trial.’
Now legal experts tell NBC News that Smollett faces a maximum of three years in prison if convicted, but it's more likely he would be sentenced to probation because he does have a clean record. Now court is expected to get under way at 9:00 local time here. It's expected to last two weeks, but cameras are not allowed in the courtroom.