In 2019, the networks hyped the shocking claims of Empire actor Jussie Smollett, that he had been attacked by a deranged MAGA mob on the streets of Chicago. Now, ABC, CBS and NBC are hiding Smollett’s trial for allegedly hoaxing the whole thing.
On the morning and evening newscasts, from November 29 through the morning of December 6, CBS allowed NO coverage of the trial. ABC managed a scant 22 seconds and NBC offered the most, a still meager 178 seconds.
ABC is the most shameless. On February 14, 2019, Good Morning America's Robin Roberts devoted a whopping 17 minutes and 52 seconds to her “exclusive” interview of Smollett recounting his claims. Roberts practically acted as a PR agent, hailing the man who claimed MAGA-loving terrorists recognized him on the streets of Chicago in the middle of the night and happened to have a noose:
[This interview] is the first time he's given a detailed account, an account that Chicago police have said that been consistent. He hasn't changed his story and also said it's credible.
So far, since the trial started on November 29, the embarrassed GMA journalists have not returned to the Smollett hoax trial. Instead, it was left to World News Tonight anchor David Muir. Last Monday, he offered this quick 22 second update:
From Chicago tonight, jury selection is now under way in the trial of actor Jussie Smollett, charged with filing a false police report claiming he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack, including a noose around his neck. He was later accused of staging it. Two brothers, former extras on the program Empire claim Smollett paid them to fake the attack.
No mention of Trump. No mention of MAGA country. The coverage on NBC was similarly unimpressive. On November 29, there was 19 seconds from Nightly News anchor Lester Holt:
In Chicago, a jury was picked in the trial of actor Jussie Smollett. He is charged with six counts of felony disorderly conduct, accused of falsely telling police in 2019 that he was assaulted in a hate crime. In a controversial decision, earlier similar charges were dropped. Smollett has pleaded not guilty.
NBC managed 2 minutes and 19 seconds on the November 29th Today, another 19 seconds on that day's Nightly News and one update on Monday, December 6. And it’s not as though there wasn’t things to cover. Last Thursday, Smollett’s lawyers accused the judge in the trial of “physically lunging” at them and asked for a mistrial. The motion was denied.
On December 6, Today co-host Savannah Guthrie explained that the actor will likely testify: “The actor is expected to take the stand in his own defense. Last week, two brothers testified that Smollett paid them to stage a racist and homophobic attack against him in 2019. Smollett is accused of lying to police about it. If convicted he faces up to three years in prison.” This amounted to just 20 more seconds.
Surely, Smollett testifying should justify some serious network coverage and examination, right?
As noted earlier, none of the three stories on the hoax trial mentioned the MAGA country allegations, but they were heavily hyped back in February of 2019. On February 19, 2019, the MRC’s Bill D’Agostino noted, “In a January 31 segment on CBS This Morning, correspondent Dean Reynolds emphasized that the actor was ‘known for speaking out against racism and bigotry,’ adding, ‘he is also a frequent critic of the President.’”
On January 29, 2019, NBC journalist Miguel Almaguer reported on MSNBC Live that police were looking for “two suspects, apparently wearing Make America Great Again hats, though that has not yet been officially confirmed.” Here's the montage video Mr. D'Agostino put together back in 2019:
Soon the whole story would fall apart. It continues to unravel in court. Now, Smollett claims that the two men prosecutors allege he hired to stage the MAGA attack were actually, in reality, secret homophobes.
MAGA terrorists attack a Black, gay man with a noose? This story was always an example of “too good to check” for network journalists. Now that ABC, CBS and NBC have been embarrassed with obvious falsehoods, these disreputable networks are simply trying to pretend the story never happened. This is “journalism” in 2021.