WashPost's Capehart Won't Put 'Alleged' In His Jussie Smollett Lecture on NPR

February 2nd, 2019 10:52 PM

Black journalists are putting their racial resentments ahead of the facts on the Jussie Smollett case. On Friday's NPR talk show 1A, guest host Todd Zwillich asked Washington Post editorial writer Jonathan Capehart (black and gay) to discuss the "reported" attack on Smollett, a star of the Fox drama Empire (black and gay). There was no "alleged" anything in Capehart's proclamation, and Capehart was very quick to blame Trump and his rhetoric for the alleged violence:

JONATHAN CAPEHART: I think that for a lot of African Americans, it sent several signals. One, the noose around the neck is unmistakeable. It goes back to segregation, Jim Crow, lynching, the sort of domestic terror that was visited upon African Americans in the South. The fact that it [was] repeatedly said 'This is MAGA country' adds to sort of the atmosphere of menace that African Americans in particular and people of color in general have felt since the advent of the Trump administration, given the rhetoric from the campaign and out of the administration. 

And then lastly, I would say the fact that Jussie Smollett is [a] famous African American, and that this happened in Chicago sends a clear signal, I think, to African Americans that there are people in this country who want to make it clear that no matter who you are, where you live, you are not safe. If an African American is not safe from racial violence in Chicago -- racially motivated and homophobic, cannot leave that out, homophobic violence -- in an urban center like Chicago, then you're not safe anywhere. 

Many blacks in Chicago have been murdered -- whether it's racially motivated or not -- it's not exactly a place where you measure safety from crime. Capehart was an echo of Post reporter Eugene Scott in side-stepping any use of "alleged." 

Empire co-creator Lee Daniels struck the same Facts-Later note, calling the alleged attack "just another f---ing day in America." 

Variety TV critic Daniel D'Addario wrote a lecture as well, assuming the worst. Like Capehart, he proclaimed this was "a heart-grippingly clear example of why so many members of protected classes have come to feel unsafe during a moment in which hatred and rage have come to so thoroughly dominate our national discourse." The answer, unsurprisingly, is more "queer artists of color" in the "mainstream."  

[T]he violence directed at him seems intended as an attack on the work he’s done and on who he is — that same bold, intersectional, unashamed self that “Empire” lifts up and celebrates. That Smollett will have behind him, as he heals, a vast community of support from different corners of America is a tribute to the performer he is — ever unapologetically himself — and the ways in which he’s sought to show viewers exactly what the black gay experience is like. And that he’s been the victim of a hate crime, one that seems to have been committed by people who knew and deplored his work, is a sign of just how necessary it is that the entertainment industry make room for even more Jussie Smolletts — more queer artists of color given places in the mainstream so that they can speak clearly, passionately, and with unfakeable humanity about their own experiences, to fight hatred with excellence.