Disgraced Empire star Jussie Smollett has given his first interview since allegedly orchestrating a hate crime hoax in January last year, insisting that he is innocent and that authorities are wrongly trying to make an example out of him.
Appearing in the second half of an hour-long broadcast on Instagram Live, Smollett spoke to Marc Lamont Hill about his ongoing court case and the scandal that has engulfed him since early last year.
“It’s been beyond frustrating because to be somebody that’s so outspoken… it’s been difficult to be so quiet,” he explained. “To not be able to say all of the things that you want to say, to not be able to yell from the rooftop.
In February, Smollett was indicted by a special prosecutor on charges of filing false police reports claiming he was the victim of a violent hate crime attack by supporters of President Donald Trump in Chicago after becoming “dissatisfied” by his $1 million salary.
The indictments were announced months after the initial 16 counts of disorderly conduct against him were abruptly dropped in a decision that sparked nationwide outrage. Smollett has pleaded not guilty.
“I don’t think people realize that I’ve just been wrapped up in some form of a case for the last, approaching, in just a couple of months approaching two years,” he complained. “It’s been beyond frustrating. I’m certainly not going rogue. I’m still taking the advice of my attorneys and everything like that. But I just don’t see honestly what staying quiet has really done. Where it has gotten me.”
Smollett continues to protest his innocence, pointing to the fact that two witnesses also claim to have seen white men rather than the two Nigerian brothers Smollett reportedly hired to coordinate the hoax.
“They won’t let this go. It doesn’t matter. There is an example being made. And the sad thing is that there’s an example being made of someone that did not do what they’re being accused of,” he said. “I would say, and again, I have to be careful what I say because I’m still in a court case, but at the same time, it’s out there. There were also two other witnesses that saw white men. That saw exactly what I say that I saw.”
When asked by Hill what he would say to people who believe he is guilty of what he is accused, Smollett sought to remind them that he is just a “human being.”
“I’m a human being like everybody else,” said Smollett. “I ingest the media and I read the headlines and all that type of stuff. And I’ve been guilty of taking things at face value as well. But when you see that happening, and they talking about you. You know it’s not true. Somehow it becomes different.”
“So on one hand, when I step back, I can see the way that they played the narrative, the way that they served it to people,” he continued. “That it was intentionally created to make people doubt from the very very beginning. But at the same time, I’m not really living for the people that don’t believe, because of the fact that I don’t know what to say. I can’t take that on.”