When a long list of prominent Democrats became the target of a domestic terrorist campaign in 2018, many people on the far right were quick to assume it was all a left-wing hoax. But the bombs mailed to billionaire George Soros, former President Barack Obama, 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and others were quite real. And now, similarly, some extremists on the far right are assuming that the violent attack on actor/singer Jussie Smollett in Chicago this week is simply a left-wing plot to discredit Donald Trump’s presidency.
TMZ reported that after Smollett (best known for his portrayal of R&B singer Jamal Lyon on the Fox television series “Empire”) left a Subway in Chicago in the wee hours, he was beaten by two men in ski masks who used racial and anti-gay slurs and told him, “This is MAGA country.” Smollett, who is African-American and openly gay, suffered a broken rib but was well enough to be discharged from Chicago’s Northwestern Hospital on Tuesday morning, January 29.
Chicago police are investigating the attack on Smollett, who had been threatened before his arrival in the Windy City. A note sent to Fox’s Chicago studio, according to TMZ, warned, “You will die, black f****r.” But the pro-Trump Reddit page The Donald is full of Trump supporters who insist that Smollett is lying.
One of the Trumpistas on The Donald posted that Smollett “got mugged and is trying to turn himself into a race martyr.” And another described the attack as “another phony hate crime.”
Far-right columnist Michelle Malkin, in a January 30 piece for Creators Syndicate, asserted that she was “skeptical” because descriptions of the attack on Smollett are full of “oddities and discrepancies.” And she believes that media accounts of the attack have all the signs of “manufactured ‘news’” and “smears first, facts later.”
Malkin wrote, “Question: How many racist homophobic menaces wander around the upscale Streeterville neighborhood of liberal Chicago at 2 a.m. carrying rope and bleach, yelling about ‘MAGA country?’ Question: How many racist homophobic menaces have ever heard of ‘Empire,’ could recognize Jussie Smollett, or know or care anything about his sexuality?”
On Steven Crowder’s far-right Louder With Crowder website, editor at large Courtney Kirchoff wondered if TMZ had fabricated the story. Kirchoff wrote, “Is this a possible fake news story? Possibly.”
The Conservative Daily News website has been pushing the “fake news” narrative as well. Contributor Andrew Aleksi-Lankinen wrote, “The claim that two Trump supporters were just waiting with rope and bleach at 2 a.m. for some celebrity to attack makes absolutely no sense whatsoever…. This could all just be a P.R. stunt by Smollett.”
Even right-wing Republicans who are expressing sympathy for Smollett are not safe from outraged Trumpistas and conspiracy buffs who believe that the attack on him is a hoax.
On January 29, anti-Trump conservative Ana Navarro (a frequent guest on CNN) visited Twitter and posted, “I saw Jussie Smollett in Miami last week. I can’t believe this happened. It is sad and disgusting and deplorable.” And a Trump supporter who goes by Jali_Cat was furious with Navarro, tweeting, “You disgusting hateful bitch….. U r the epitome of fake news and of a FAKE REPUBLICAN! Can not WAIT til God knee jerks you down ten notches @ananavarro!”
Another Twitter user, who goes by MidAtlantic Woman, posted, “@ananavarro doesn’t care if it is true, as long as it hurts our President.”
In 2014, Smollett was cast as Jamal Lyon, a gay R&B singer. And the Northern California native came out as gay during a March 2015 interview with Ellen DeGeneres. In addition to his acting, Smollett has recorded an album: 2018’s Sum of My Music.