In reporting the sad saga of actor Jussie Smollett, the national media did not cover themselves with glory.
Assuming the worst, they jumped the gun taking the word of a celebrity and his tall tale of being attacked in very cold Chicago at 2 am by bleach and noose-carrying Donald Trump fans. That yarn should not have passed the smell test.
The Wall Street Journal's Feb. 22 editorial got it right: "Now comes the Jussie Smollett incident—allegedly a racially motivated street attack in Chicago. The national media bought it hook, line and fake noose."
The actor, in the opinion of the WSJ, "knew his audience—the elite media—would elevate him to political martyrdom, and it did."
The Journal believes Smollett deserves to the punished for his hoax to deter others. And indeed, punishment is happening
Smollett thought the assault, which cost him $3,500, would win sympathy and a pay boost from 20th Century Fox TV's hit "Empire," where he earned $100K per episode.
Instead, Fox suspended him today.
"Jussie has been an important member of our 'Empire' family for the past five years and we care about him deeply," said a statement attributed to the show's executive producers.
"While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out. We are also aware of the effects of this process on the cast and crew members who work on our show and to avoid further disruption on set, we have decided to remove the role of Jamal [Smollett's character] from the final two episodes of the season.”
So much for the caring about him deeply bit
More important, Smollett has been charged with a felony for faking his own assault, which could result in a three-year prison term.
The Journal expects the media's punishment will be their "continuing loss of public credibility."
And speaking of a loss of credibility, the paper also notes that president Trump took time from his busy schedule (e.g. The Wall, No Collusion, Fake News) to fire off a tweet about Smollett.
"What about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!" tweeted Trump.
How's that for nerve?
While Trump criticizes "racist and dangerous comments" of Smollett, he's silent about white nationalist Coast Guard officer Paul Hasson who allegedly wanted to murder Democratic politicians (e.g., "Crying" Chuck and Nancy) and MSNBC/CNN journalists. Police found an arsenal in Hasson's Maryland home.
Of course, Hasson might have taken Trump's depiction of the media as "enemies of the people" to heart, or attended one of the president's media "hatefest" rallies, where reporters are jeered and sometimes physically abused.
White House shill Sarah Huckabee Sanders today swatted away a question about whether the president's statements on Twitter or at rallies are creating toxic environments for journalists and Democrats.
"I certainly don't think the President, at any point, has done anything but condemn violence against journalists or anyone else," she said.
It's her biggest lie yet.