CNN’s Brian Stelter Takes Heat for Doubling Down on Defense of ‘Hoaxster’ Jussie Smollett

March 27, 2019 Updated: March 27, 2019

CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter is taking fire on social media—including flak from his own station colleagues—for appearing to defend disgraced hoax hate crime accuser Jussie Smollett.

In light of recent developments that saw felony charges dropped for Smollett in spite of seemingly overwhelming evidence he staged the so-called attack, Stelter suggested the narrative had again shifted in the “Empire” actor’s favor.

Stelter tweeted that Smollett was truly a “victim” and that “we may never know” what happened to him the night of the alleged attack, when Smollett claimed he was jumped by assailants later unmasked as paid actors.

“The narrative has once again changed from victim, you know, to villain back to victim. It’s been very confusing,” Stelter said on the air Tuesday. “People don’t know what to believe and we may never really know what happened on the street that night in Chicago.”

Among those critical of Stelter was CNN political commentator Steve Cortes.

“Brian, unless you believe the Chicago Police created an insanely complex hoax themselves, we know precisely what happened that night. Please don’t disrespect the cops’ diligent work,” Cortes told Stelter.

The Washington Examiner’s political commentary writer Tiana Lowe also publicly challenged Stelter, writing on Twitter: “‘We may never really know what happened’ about a hoax documented with checks and videos is about five inches removed from ‘Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia’ territory.”

The “Reliable Sources” anchor doubled down on his remarks in response to Lowe’s tweet, insisting that because there “isn’t any video,” no one can truly know “what really happened.”

Brian Stelter at an event
Correspondent Brian Stelter attends an event at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City on Dec. 11, 2016. (Mike Coppola/Getty Images for CNN)

Hoax ‘Attack’

Smollett originally claimed he was attacked in the middle of the night in downtown Chicago in January by two men in ski masks.

The brothers told detectives that Smollett paid them to fake a hate crime, even rehearsing the attack several days before it allegedly happened and telling one to yell: “This is MAGA country” while the other was to “attack him, but not hurt him too badly.”

Chicago police later said that Smollett had orchestrated the attack himself, with two Nigerian-American brothers, Abel and Ola Osundairo, carrying out the “attack.”

“This stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with his salary,” Chicago Superintendent Eddie Johnson said on Feb. 21.

Actor Jussie Smollett
Actor Jussie Smollett leaves the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago on March 26, 2019, after prosecutors dropped all charges against him. (Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

The Osundairos were seen on surveillance footage buying items used in the alleged hate crime hoax, including red hats meant to look like the “Make America Great Again” hats worn by some Trump supporters.

Smollett was facing 16 felony counts for allegedly orchestrating his own hate crime, but the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office in Illinois dropped all the charges despite admitting Smollett was not being exonerated.

This image provided by the Chicago Police Department and taken from surveillance video shows two people of interest in an attack on “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett walking along a street in the Streeterville neighborhood of Chicago, on Jan. 29, 2019. The pair was later identified as Abel and Ola Osundairo. (Courtesy of Chicago Police Department via AP)

The attorney representing the Osundairo brothers issued a statement on March 26 after prosecutors dropped the 16 felony counts against the actor.

“The Osundairo brothers were fully prepared to testify in any criminal proceedings in the Jussie Smollett case,” attorney Gloria Schmidt said in a statement.

‘Whitewash of Justice’

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel expressed his frustration at the dropped charges during a press conference Tuesday.

“Because of the judge’s decision, none of that evidence will never be made public. None of it,” he said, according to CNN. “This is, without a doubt, a whitewash of justice and sends a clear message that if you’re in a position of influence and power, you’ll get treated one way. Other people will be treated another way. There is no accountability then, in the system. It is wrong—full stop.”

Chicago Police Department superintendent Eddie Johnson was said to be “furious” at the recent development.

“I only hope that the truth about what happened receives the same amount of attention that the hoax did,” Johnson said earlier, according to CBS. “I’ll continue to pray for this troubled young man who resorted to both drastic and illegal tactics to gain attention.”

Follow Tom on Twitter: @OZImekTOM
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