In his first interview in nearly two years, Jussie Smollett spoke to journalist Marc Lamont Hill about a wife range of issues connected directly, and tangentially, to his ongoing legal battle in Chicago. But while he was careful to be clear that he won’t speak about the specifics of that case — “I’m still taking the advice of my attorneys” — he did say that he isn’t sure “what staying quiet has really done.”
“It’s been beyond frustrating because to be somebody that’s so outspoken … it’s been difficult to be so quiet. To not be able to say all of the things that you want to say, to not be able to yell from the rooftop,” he told Hill in the interview, which was posted to Hill’s Instagram on Wednesday night. “Because, I don’t think people realize that I’ve just been wrapped up in some form of a case for the last, approaching, in just a couple of months approaching two years. It’s been beyond frustrating. I’m certainly not going rogue. I’m still taking the advice of my attorneys and everything like that. But I just don’t see honestly what staying quiet has really done. Where it has gotten me.”
Frequently challenged by Hill about the details of the case and his story of what happened, Smollett largely avoided specifics as promised, but he did say he feels unlikely that he’ll prevail in his next court appearance, which is scheduled for Thursday. “They won’t let this go. It doesn’t matter. There is an example being made. And the sad thing is that there’s an example being made of someone that did not do what they’re being accused of,” he said.
Hill brought up the fact that Chicago police say they were unable to find evidence of any hate crime from the 2019 incident Smollett is accused of faking. “They couldn’t find anybody that fit the description that you gave them. And that was one of the first things that made the public say, ‘Hey wait a minute, maybe this isn’t true,” Hill noted.
“I would say, and again I have to be careful what I say because I’m still in a court case, but at the same time, it’s out there. There’s also two other witnesses that saw white men. That saw exactly what I say that I saw,” Smollett responded.
He said his version of the story was overshadowed by “lies” that were “shouted from the rooftops,” and that nothing which corroborated his story was widely publicized. Smollet also said that video footage exists of the incident as he says it happened. “But of course, it cuts off right before it happens,” he said.
Hill noted that how that cutoff could seem “awfully convenient” to a lot of people. “I certainly didn’t have the power to cut the tape, so who cut the tape?” Smollett responded, a possible reference to numerous instances in which Chicago Police have been caught destroying or dishonestly editing video evidence. “I’m in a case,” Smollett continued, “so y’all gotta do the detective work.”
Smollett did call out former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, who he said “really has no place” in government, specifically for the unusual decision to sue Smollett to recoup overtime costs for officers investigating the case.
At one point, Hill asked Smollett what he would say to people who think he did pull a hoax as he’s accused. To that, Smollet said: “I’m a human being like everybody else. I ingest the media and I read the headlines and all that type of stuff. And I’ve been guilty of taking things at face value as well. But when you see that happening, and they talking about you. You know it’s not true. Somehow it becomes different.”
“So on one hand, when I step back, I can see the way that they played the narrative, the way that they served it to people. That it was intentionally created to make people doubt from the very very beginning. But at the same time, I’m not really living for the people that don’t believe, because of the fact that I don’t know what to say. I can’t take that on,” he added.
There’s a lot more. Watch the whole video — the Smollett interview kicks in at the halfway mark.