9:09pm PT by Katie Kilkenny, Trilby Beresford
Late-Night Hosts React to Jussie Smollett's Dropped Charges
On Tuesday, late-night hosts tackled the only news story of the week that could rival the attorney general's conclusion from Robert Mueller's Russia report: the dropped charges against Jussie Smollett.
Earlier in the day, lawyers for the Empire actor declared that their client's "record has been wiped clean" following his indictment on 16 counts by a Cook County grand jury in March. The news set off a chain reaction of statements, including from the Chicago police and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who called the decision a "whitewash of justice." Not long after, first assistant Cook County State's Attorney Joseph Magats, who headed up the Smollett decision, clarified that he did not believe Smollett was "innocent" and said "alternative prosecutions" from prison time happen on a regular basis in the county.
On Jimmy Kimmel Live!, the titular host referred to his recurring bit about Washington state's Gonzaga University, which he claims does not exist, while discussing Smollett. "Smollett was facing 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly staging a hate crime against himself," he said. "The police apparently became suspicious when the alleged attackers claimed they went to Gonzaga University."
He also touched on Emanuel's fiery statement about the dropped charges in his monologue. "The mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, and the police superintendent are furious that they dropped the charges. The mayor says this is a whitewash of justice But that’s how it’s going nowadays. Everyone we think committed crimes, didn’t," he said. "R. Kelly and Felicity Huffman, you’re free to go."
Over on The Late Show, Stephen Colbert also seized on Emanuel's statement: He ran clips of the Chicago officials involved in the case alleging that the city is still owed an apology, along with Mayor Rahm Emanuel declaring the result a “whitewash of justice.”
Colbert later joked, “Isn’t it a hopeful sign in America that all rich, famous people get off easily?” He also quoted an alternate version of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech: “I have a dream that one day, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will hire the very best publicists to leverage their social media profile, escape charges and then make a big comeback on The Masked Singer.”
Wrapping up the segment, Colbert ran a clip of “Smollett’s spokesperson, Donald Trump,” saying on television that Jussie’s situation was “a complete exoneration.”
Later on CBS, The Late Late Show's James Corden also drew connections between Trump and Smollett. "Smollett isn't being charged with a crime, but he hasn't officially been exonerated, so if nothing else, he is qualified to be the president of the United States," Corden joked.
Corden additionally made a crack about the circumstances of the alleged hate crime that targeted Smollett, saying, "Seeing the that charges have been dropped, we can get back to the real issue here, which is, who eats at Subway at 2 a.m.?" (Smollett claimed he had been attacked outside one of the franchise's outposts at the early-morning hour.) He added that Smollett said he would get back to work, but his role on Empire was in question: "It is impressive that one person might be too much drama for Empire."
Over on Comedy Central, Daily Show host Trevor Noah summarized the cast for comedic effect: "Two months ago, the Empire actor was attacked by two Trump supporters who turned out to be Nigerian weightlifters who turned out to be American brothers. But now the story is getting weird," he joked.
Seizing on the Cook County State's Attorney's Office statement that it did not "exonerate" Smollett, Noah joked, "OK, wait. So Jussie was set free, so he's not innocent, so he's not guilty. What?" Pausing for laughs, Noah added, "We need someone to figure this out. Mueller! We've got a new case for you! And this time just tell us what happened!" he shouted, referring to Special Counsel Robert Mueller.