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Rock first joked that he was told not to talk about the controversial actor while he presented the award for outstanding comedy series. “They said no Jussie Smollett jokes,” the comedian began. “I know. What a waste of light skin. You know what I could do with that light skin? That curly hair? My career would be out of here. Fucking running Hollywood.”
“What the hell was he thinking?” Rock continued. “You’re ‘Jessie’ from now on. You don’t even get the ‘U’ no more. That ‘U’ was respect. You don’t get no respect from me.”
Smollett was nominated for outstanding supporting actor in a drama series, but lost out to Grey’s Anatomy‘s Jesse Williams.
While Rock lit into the Empire actor, Black-ish star Yara Shahidi expressed her support for Smollett upon accepting the outstanding comedy series award alongside the ABC comedy series’ cast. “I stand with Jussie,” she simply said while accepting the honor.
Smollett has been in the news since late January, when he claimed that two Donald Trump supporters beat him because he is an African-American gay man. After many Hollywood figures spoke out in support of the actor, he was charged with disorderly conduct via a class 4 felony false report allegation and later indicted on 16 felony counts for allegedly lying to authorities about the attack.
All charges against Smollett were recently dropped. “All criminal charges against Jussie Smollett were dropped and his record has been wiped clean of the filing of this tragic complaint against him,” his lawyers said Tuesday in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “Jussie was attacked by two people he was unable to identify on January 29th. He was a victim who was vilified and made to appear as a perpetrator as a result of false and inappropriate remarks made to the public causing an inappropriate rush to judgment.”
Following the news that the charges had been dropped, the actor addressed the media in front of a Chicago courthouse. “This has been an incredibly difficult time. Honestly one of the worst of my entire life. But I am a man of faith and I am a man that has knowledge of my history and I would not bring my family, our lives or the movement through a fire like this. I just wouldn’t,” Smollett said. “Now I’d like nothing more than to get back to work and move on with my life. But make no mistake, I will always continue to fight for the justice, equality and betterment of marginalized people everywhere.”
The 2019 NAACP Image Awards took place at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. The show was broadcast on TV One and was hosted by Anthony Anderson.
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