In two separate mediums on Wednesday, openly gay actress Ellen Page and actor Tyler Perry did their best to respectively downplay and defend the alleged hate crime hoax concocted, rehearsed, and carried out by Empire star Jesse Smollett with two Nigerian bodybuilders who had been his drug suppliers.
Despite the fact that the evidence has only continued to build against Smollett, both worked to muddy the waters in Smollett’s favor instead of entertaining the notion that their preconceived biases about the case could be wrong.
Page did her part with an op-ed in a new issue of The Hollywood Reporter alongside a cover story that wondered if “career pressure and ‘addictive fame may have driven the Empire star to do ‘something desperate.’” No word on whether the entertainment outlet believes people should still be held accountable for their misdeeds that go astray of the law or if it should be thought out as someone else’s fault.
Page’s column (entitled “Hate Violence Is Not a Hoax”) insisted in the subhead: “While the media debates the ‘Empire’ star's case, it’s critical that we not lose sight of the real threats underrepresented communities face every day, writes the actress and activist.”
She relayed a December 30, 2018 incident in which a married lesbian couple were assaulted at a Seattle Seahawks game along with homophobic slurs, allowing her to assert: “We, as LGBTQ+ people, are forced to fear for our safety because instances of hate violence, like the violence these women experienced in Seattle, happen. They happen to us all the time.”
With the following mention of Smollett being the only nod in the entire piece, Page illustrated how she has no intention of apologizing for her comments on January 31’s The Late Show that blamed Christianity and Vice President Mike Pence for the alleged beating of Smollett (click “expand”):
It's the fear that makes us pause before grabbing the hand of our loved one in public. It's the fear that makes us consider whether or not we are in physical danger before we lean in for a kiss on the cheek. The conversation around Jussie Smollett has led us all to examine hate violence and its implications and aftermath. I had no reason to doubt Jussie. My work on Gaycation — the docuseries I produced to chronicle LGBTQ+ stories from around the world — introduced me to many survivors of hate violence. I know how prevalent and pernicious it can be. If this situation was staged, it could make victims even more reluctant to report these crimes. Very real crimes.
While the media and public debate the case and await more information, we must not lose sight of the very real, endemic violence that LGBTQ+ people, people of color and other underrepresented communities face every day.
I ask you not to question our pain, not to draw into question our trauma, but to maintain, wholeheartedly, that hate violence exists. The merits of one case should not and cannot call that into question. The media coverage does not convey the reality and totality of the cruelty and danger we face. This is the story that must be told.
“My work and advocacy have taken me around the world, and I've had the opportunity to meet LGBTQ+ people who bravely face inequity and violence in their communities on a regular basis....As a queer but white cisgender woman, I benefit from the protections and safety that my income and status afford me. But I do not and have not escaped the threats of violence and the very real acts of violence and harassment,” she added.
Instead of elaborating on the damage Smollett has caused to actual victims of hate crimes, Page pushed ahead (click “expand”):
FBI data released in 2018 shows reported hate crimes in America rose 17 percent the year prior, the third consecutive year of escalation. In fact, the most recent study from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs reported the deadliest year on record for the LGBTQ+ community. The statistics are plentiful and powerful and all point to a rising tide of hate violence.
When the rhetoric we read and the hate speech we hear comes from our politicians, our media and entertainment, our neighbors and families and our religious leaders, we internalize the pain in damaging, self-defeating ways. We are wary and afraid to report hate violence. We lose hope as we continue to be victimized. The cruelty, the hate and the words manifest shame.
No child, no teenager, no adult — no one deserves to be victimized because of who they are. No one should feel shame for who they were born to be or to live their life in fear. I am going to use my voice and visibility to continue speaking and — as storytellers and members of an industry with a global platform — I implore you to join me.
Switching over to Perry, he appeared on NBC’s Today and was asked by co-host Hoda Kotb to comment on Smollett because “[y]ou kinda weighed in early on Twitter” and that the account of what took place “started off one way and then the way police say — they’re describing it now as a hoax.”
Perry admitted that he wished a case involving two men named Terrance Williams and Felipe Santos had received more coverage, but then pivoted to defending Smollett because “he's adamant that he's telling the truth” and thus “he's not the type of person that would ever do that, so it's pretty — it’s pretty confusing.”
He added that “it’s a wait and see,” but Perry had already defended Smollett before that comment. Making matters worse, he then doubled down: “Listen, he is so adamant about it and he’s so convincing in his story that I'm just — I’m just hoping and standing with him, hoping that it all turns out in his favor for sure.”
So much for letting law enforcement do their jobs.
To see the relevant transcript from NBC’s Today on February 27, click “expand.”
February 27, 2019
8:42 a.m. Eastern
HODA KOTB: Something that has been in the news a lot lately is the case and the story of Jussie smollett. It started off one way and then the way police say — they’re describing it now as a hoax.
TYLER PERRY: Yeah.
KOTB: You kinda weighed in early on Twitter. What are you thoughts about this case as it unfolds?
PERRY: You know, I've been fighting for justice for Terrance Williams and Felipe Santos. They were put into a Collier County Deputy's car, his name is Steve Calkins, back in — maybe — it's almost been 15 years now — and disappeared. So I wish that that case could have gotten half the attention that the Jussie Smollett thing got, but, listen, everybody that knows him — he's adamant that he's telling the truth. Everybody that knows him, that I know, they all say that he's not the type of person that would ever do that, so it's pretty — it’s pretty confusing. So, right now it's a wait and see.
CRAIG MELVIN: But you talked to him?
PERRY: I did.
MELVIN: Do you believe that he's telling the truth about his — his —
PERRY: Listen, he is so adamant about it and he’s so convincing in his story that I'm just — I’m just hoping and standing with him, hoping that it all turns out in his favor for sure.