Don Lemon appeared on CNN Thursday evening to let viewers know that he found the idea that Jussie Smollett staged the assault against him to be increasingly credible.
On set with Chris Cuomo, Lemon said that if Smollett was guilty he should confess and plead for mercy and forgiveness.
“It’s hard to see how this would indeed be a set-up,” Lemon said. “I say if it is true, confess. Throw yourself on the mercy of the court, and of the people, and then see where that leads you.”
“If you screwed up and did this, own it. You want to say why you did it this way, do that, but you’re not helping the cause,” he said. “I’ll tell you that right now, there’s a lot of truth that’s going to get covered up by one untruth.”
After news of the alleged attack was first reported, Lemon swiftly became one of Smollett’s staunchest defenders on air and in private. Earlier this month, he told Entertainment Tonight that he texted Smollett every day after to check up on him.
“So every day I say… ‘I know you think I’m annoying you, but I just want to know how you’re doing. And that you’re OK. And that if you need somebody you can talk to me because there’s not a lot of us out there,'” Lemon said. “Sometimes he responds, sometimes he doesn’t. He responded and said, ‘You are not annoying.'”
Smollett was taken into custody by Chicago police on Thursday and is currently facing a felony charge of filing a false police report. He was released the same day after posting $100,000 bond. In a press conference, Chicago police superintendent Eddie T. Johnson laced into Smollett, saying the “Empire” star fabricated the hate crime because he was unhappy about his salary on the show.
“Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Johnson said. “Bogus police reports cause real harm. They do harm to every legitimate victim who is in need of support by police and investigators as well as the citizens of this city … I’m offended by what happened and I am also angry.”
For his part, Smollett has continued to profess his innocence.
“Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system,” a statement put out on his behalf read. “The presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon at the expense of Mr. Smollett and notably, on the eve of a Mayoral election. Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.”