Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel took aim at President Trump over what he said was the “toxic environment” the billionaire has created, adding that it played a role in the Jussie Smollett hate crime “hoax.”
“Look, I’ve always said from day one, this is a Trump-free zone, the city of Chicago, and I mean it,” Emanuel said during a press conference on Thursday. “Let me be really clear about something: The only reason Jussie Smollett thought he could take advantage of a hoax about a hate crime is for the environment, the toxic environment that Donald Trump created.”
Emanuel said the the “moral equivalency” Trump drew between promoters and opponents of “bigotry” was unacceptable, calling out Trump’s declaration last April that there were good people “on both sides” of the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, which left one person dead.
“President Trump should literally take his politics and move it aside. He’s created a toxic environment. Now he’s created a toxic vicious cycle in my view,” he added. “The only reason Jussie Smollett thought he could get away with this hoax about a hate crime is because of the environment President Trump created.”
Rahm, a Democrat and former chief of staff to president Obama, urged Trump to “stay out” of the story.
The fire and fury for Trump, however, has done nothing to diminish Emanuel’s ongoing anger over the Smollett case, which he repeatedly referred to as a hate crime “hoax.” On Thursday, the city of Chicago sent a letter to Smollett demanding $130,000 in backpay to cover the costs of the investigation with a warning that failure to pay up would result in civil action against him, USA Today reported.
On Tuesday, all 16 felony counts against the “Empire” star were dropped. Chicago police continue to remain adamant however that Smollett fabricated a hate crime against him in order to raise his national profile and bargain for a higher salary on the popular Fox series. In a press conference the same day, Emanuel called the decision by prosecutors to drop the charges a “whitewash of justice.”
“Mr. Smollett is still saying that he is innocent, still running down the Chicago Police department. How dare him. How dare him,” Emanuel said. “[This] sends a clear message that if you’re in a position of influence and power you’ll get treated one way, other people will get treated another way. There is no accountability, then, in the system. It is wrong. Full stop.”
For his part, Smollett has steadfastly maintained his innocence and repeatedly doubled down on his original assertion that he was attacked by two men on a cold Chicago night in January. His attorney Mark Geragos took a victory lap after the decision by prosecutors, saying the actor would be accepting apologies from those who doubted him.
“Today, all criminal charges against Jussie Smollett were dismissed by the Prosecution. Jussie’s record has been wiped clean. Jussie was attacked by two people he was unable to identify. He was a victim and was victimized again in a rush to judgment. Apologies accepted,” he said.