Hours after Empire actor Jussie Smollett was arrested for filing a false report in connection to what police believe was a staged hate crime, The Late Show‘s Stephen Colbert summarized the complex case with three words: “What a dick.”
The comedian recapped the bizarre incident in his monologue Thursday, detailing how Smollett allegedly paid two men — who are also black — to “attack” him on January 29th at the entrance of Chicago’s Loews hotel because, as police said, he was “dissatisfied with his salary.” The actor told authorities that the masked strangers yelled racist and homophobic remarks, taunted him using President Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again,” tied a noose around his neck and poured a substance on him that he thought to be bleach.
“I’m no expert,” Colbert said, “but if you’re going to fake a white supremacist hate crime, hire two white guys, OK? This is one place where you don’t want diversity.” The host also noted another flaw in Smollett’s alleged crime: paying his associates by check. “It did not help that he wrote in the memo line, ‘For faking hate crime against me, Jussie Smollett, the guy from Empire,” he cracked.
Smollett is currently in custody in Chicago and faces a felony charge that could result in up to three years in prison. But as Colbert noted, the case could have a negative ripple effect beyond the actor’s own life: “It’s a horrible affront to actual victims of hate crimes,” he said. “It sets back [their] credibility.”
“This dude may have faked a hate crime just to get a raise?” the comedian asked. “I don’t understand. What’s the logic there? You get your ass beat and then you go to your boss and be like, ‘Hey, can I get another million dollars? I need to buy some Band-Aids.’ What was the thinking? That’s not a good way to get a raise, people. Call me old-fashioned, but whatever happened to just going into your boss’ office and blackmailing him with nudes? That is such a petty reason to pull off such a major crime. Imagine if we found out the reason Tupac faked his own death was just to get out of a Blockbuster late fee?”
“Jussie is potentially going to prison for awhile,” he continued. “And in his wake, he has screwed over everyone. Think about it. Members of the gay community are emotionally terrorized over something that turned out to be a hoax. Trump supporters are upset over being falsely accused. And Democratic candidates are tying themselves into knots trying to walk back their initial statements calling this a ‘modern-day lynching.’ … But there is a silver lining. When this started out, it was a story about people who hated Jussie Smollett because he was black and gay. But now people hate him because he’s an asshole. In other words, they’re judging him by the content of his character and not the color of his skin — and that, my friends, is progress.”