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Don Lemon weighs in on Jussie Smollett: ‘There were credible reasons to be skeptical’

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Don Lemon weighs in on Jussie Smollett: ‘There were credible reasons to be skeptical’


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Here’s the latest for Thursday February 21st: Jussie Smollett accused of falsely reporting attack; House Democrats preparing resolution to counter emergency declaration; Oakland, California teachers going on strike; Heavy rain and flooding in Deep South.
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Jussie Smollett was charged Wednesday evening with filing a false police report, and Don Lemon, for one, is expressing frustration at the possibility he was lied to by the “Empire” actor.

Lemon briefed Wednesday’s “CNN Tonight” audience on the latest developments in the Smollett case. The star previously told police that on Jan. 29, two men attacked him and yelled racial and homophobic slurs and placed a rope around his neck. 

The CNN anchor told viewers he had a 2015 cameo on “Empire” and met Smollett then, describing the actor as a fan and “a very nice guy.” 

“I know him – not best friends, but I do know him,” Lemon added of their current relationship.

“We shouldn’t forget innocent until proven guilty, of course, innocent until proven guilty,” Lemon said, “but like I said, a lot of this just doesn’t add up. If Jussie’s story isn’t true, he squandered the goodwill of a whole lot of people. He even lied to a lot of people – if it’s not true – including me, and that’s not cool.

“He squandered the goodwill of very high-profile people who may one day be running this country like Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and people like President Trump,” Lemon said mentioning those who spoke out after news of the alleged attack. 

“Like I said, there were questions about Jussie’s story from the very beginning, questions he still needs to answer. Innocent until proven guilty, but a whole lot of people want to hear from him,” Lemon said. “What happened Jussie?”

Earlier this month, Lemon told “Red Table Talk” hosts Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow Smith and Adrienne Banfield-Norris that he had been texting Smollett daily to see how he was doing after the attack. 

“Every day I say, ‘I know you think I’m annoying’ – I can show you a text – ‘I know you think I’m annoying you, but I just want to know that you’re OK, and if you need somebody you can talk to me, ’cause there’s not a lot of us out there,’ ” Lemon told the women. “Sometimes he responds; sometimes he doesn’t.”

On the “Red Table Talk” episode released Feb. 11, Lemon said his focus wasn’t the skepticism surrounding Smollett’s account. 

“I knew everyone would be picking apart his story,” he said. “That’s not my concern.”

Wednesday, he admitted: “The facts raised a lot of questions.” He added: “There were credible reasons to be skeptical of this.”

More: Jussie Smollett turns himself in on claim of making false police report, Chicago police say

More: Trevor Noah talks Jussie Smollett: ‘Either this guy is telling the truth or he deserves an Emmy’

Lemon presented the questions he had. 

“Who’s going to be out in the frigid streets of Chicago in the middle of the night, looking for an ‘Empire’ star?” he wondered. “You’ve got to be bundled up in that kind of cold, how would they even know it’s you? And let’s be honest, there are probably not a whole lot of MAGA fans watching ‘Empire.’ “

Lemon also addressed a letter received a week before the alleged attack, sent to the Chicago studio where “Empire” is filmed. By Lemon’s assessment, the threat with a stick figure drawing and letters cut out of publications “looks like something out of a bad movie.”

Lemon was perplexed as to why Smollett initially refused to give his phone to authorities. Smollett explained to Robin Roberts in an interview that aired on “Good Morning America” Feb. 14 that he was concerned for his privacy, noting the personal nature of items on his phone. 

“Yes, there will be things on your phone that you want to keep private,” Lemon agreed, “but if there are also things that prove your story, isn’t it worth the handover?”

Smollett’s attorneys,Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson, have issued a statement to USA TODAY reminding that Smollett is presumed innocent. 

“Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked. Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”

More: Jussie Smollett: ‘Empire’ producer stands by star, Ava DuVernay weighs in

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