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Why would anyone publicly support him?

It seems some of Jussie Smollett’s fellow performers on the “Empire” television series have chosen to give him their unqualified support. Why on earth would they do that?

If Chicago police are correct, Smollett committed a despicable crime. They say he paid two men to stage an attack on him that he reported to police as a hate crime perpetrated against him because he is black and gay. And, he added, the culprits were supporters of President Donald Trump.

Smollett gained an enormous amount of publicity after reporting the accusation. But police, having questioned the two brothers they say Smollett paid to stage the attack, have charged him with filing a false report.

Publicity stunts by entertainers are not terribly rare. Some fading stars use them to revive their careers. Some performers who think they ought to get better billing or better pay use them to gain public support toward those ends.

But, as Chicago’s police chief has pointed out, Smollett’s alleged offense is especially disturbing because he claimed he was the victim of a hate crime. Investigating the Smollett case diverted police from looking into real crimes. And it will tend to cast doubt on others who report real hate crimes.

Still, some of Smollett’s chums apparently have no problem with all that. One “Empire” star used Instagram to tell Smollett, “All your lil homies got you … We love the hell outta you.”

Smollett is innocent until proven guilty, of course. But if he did what police say, he ought to be punished severely. If he is guilty, he pursued purely selfish goals with no concern for the harm he would cause others. That attitude is inexcusable. So is public support for Smollett.

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