Actor Jussie Smollett stands accused of paying two Nigerian men to fake a hate crime against him in 2019. This week, as the Empire actor took the stand, the trial took a direction that could make CNN host Don Lemon quite nervous.
According to The Daily Wire, Smollett testified Monday that part of the reason why he refused to surrender his phone to law enforcement was that Lemon had sent texts warning that Chicago police did not believe his hate crime story.
According to USA Today, Lemon admitted in 2019 during an interview with Jada Pinkett Smith that he had been corresponding with the actor but claimed it was motivated by concerns regarding their shared racial and sexual identity.
“As Black gay men, we carry the racism part, and we carry the gay part,” USA Today quoted Lemon as saying. “We’re already a class of people who have been discriminated against, so why do I want to have another mark against me?”
“Every day I say, ‘I know you think I’m annoying’ – I can show you a text – ‘I know you think I’m annoying you, but I just want to know that you’re OK, and if you need somebody you can talk to me, ’cause there’s not a lot of us out there,'” Lemon said of his and Smollett’s communications.
“Sometimes he responds; sometimes he doesn’t. He responds and says, ‘You are not annoying,'” Lemon added.
“I’ve had fear”
In fact, Lemon, at one point, suggested he, too, worried about being targeted for homophobic and racial violence, stating, “I’ve had fear recently… because of the political environment.”
“I get death threats… I have security, all of these things that happened. Listen, we’ve always been divided ideologically, but there’s something different going on now.”
Smollett’s claim that he was beaten and doused with bleach before having a noose thrown around his neck by two white Trump supporters was initially cited as proof of a racist conservative movement. Then-Sen. Kamala Harris tweeted that it was “a modern-day lynching.”
Details raised questions
However, many in the media were skeptical that a pair of MAGA hat-wearing bigots would be wandering the streets of Chicago while carrying a noose at 2 a.m., during a cold snap, among other bizarre unlikelihoods.
Although Smollett claimed the men yelled, “This is MAGA country!,” Chicago overwhelmingly voted Democratic in 2016, as it has been a blue city for decades.
That the men supposedly recognized him from the television show Empire may have also struck some as odd; Empire features an African American cast, and would seem unlikely to attract “white supremacist” viewers.