CNN had its legal experts blast Jussie Smollett‘s testimony on two of its flagships shows Monday night – with Don Lemon ignoring his own alleged involvement in the story while inviting a lawyer on to express doubts about the actor’s claims.
On Monday, Smollett claimed to the court that the CNN star had texted him in the wake of the alleged February 2019 hate attack to claim Chicago Police weren’t taking his claims seriously. But Lemon avoided that allegation during his report on the trial on Monday, and again failed to touch on it Tuesday.
Criticism of Smollett’s defense strategy at his trial for allegedly faking a racist and homophobic hate crime began at around 8:40pm EST Tuesday, when Anderson Cooper’s legal analyst Sarah Azari offered her scathing take on the 39 year-old’s day in court.
‘Sarah, I’m wondering what you made of Smollett’s testimony on the whole? Did you think he was very credible? Do you think he helped his case?’ Anderson asked Azari.
‘He hurt his case…He got up and testified in a compelling way and a calm way. But he is a trained actor, right? So the idea that he is a self-made man, he’s hustled, he’s worked hard. ”Trust me, believe me, don’t convict me.” Okay. Then you get to the explanation part which completely fell flat, Anderson,’ Azari offered.
Azari said she was confused by Smollett’s refusal to report the alleged February 2019 hate attack to cops, despite what he claimed was its severity. She also took exception to his claim that he’d wanted to buy herbal steroids off the two brothers accused of attacking him – one of whom is actually said to be a lover of Smollett’s.
Legal analyst Sarah Azari (rigth) offered scathing remarks on the violent attack Smollett supposedly endured in 2019 – which he testified ‘was no hoax’ – during the Anderson Cooper 360 segment on Tuesday
Actor Jussie Smollett departs Tuesday, December 7 with his mother Janet, the Leighton Criminal Courthouse after day six of his trial in Chicago
Don Lemon (left) also led his guest, defense lawyer Joey Jackson (right), to stick the boot into Smollett on his show an hour later. No mention was made of Smollett’s claim in court Monday that Lemon had texted him in the aftermath of the alleged attack to warn that Chicago Police weren’t taking his claims seriously
‘He hurt his case…He got up and testified in a compelling way and a calm way. But he is a trained actor, right? So the idea that he is a self-made man, he’s hustled, he’s worked hard. ”Trust me, believe me, don’t convict me,”’ Azari said about Smollett
Azari did not mince words, making her opinion on the highly publicized trial very clear by underscoring several of the inconsistencies raised by the prosecution.
She brought up the fact that Smollett was caught in surveillance footage driving many times past the alleged crime scene where the Osundairo brothers reportedly attacked him, while they were inside his car.
‘The idea that on a frigid Chicago January night, they just happened to find him at this location without any planning is not plausible,’ Azari said.
‘You know, the idea that, um, he says he has sex with one of them but then they’re homophobic and ”they hate me and they planned this attack.” How do you reconcile that? You can’t,’ she added.
Cooper also offered his own share of criticism about the motivations behind Smollett’s claims.
‘[He] sort of pointed out that he doesn’t want attention. I mean, the profession that he is in exists on attention…I mean, the idea that he doesn’t want attention seems hard to believe,’ the host said.
On Monday, Smollett told the jury that CNN host Don Lemon warned him Chicago police did not believe he was the victim of a racist homophobic attack, in what is being seen as another example of the network’s hosts using their clout and sources to help their friends
Azari raised doubts about Smollett’s reluctance to cooperate with police during the early stages of the investigation, adding that Smollett claimed cops in the case were ‘MAGA’ and that he said he didn’t believe in ancestry.com when asked to provide DNA samples.
‘More damning than everything, Anderson, is the idea that you are a victim of a hate crime and then you don’t cooperate with the police so that they can capture and bring the perpetrator to justice, right?’ she said.
The manner in which Smollett responded to the prosecution’s questions on the stand was also slammed, with Azari commenting that his defensive demeanor was likely not well received by the jury.
‘You can be firm, you can be prepared, you can be compelling but once you start getting snarky with the prosecutor and defensive, it doesn’t fare well with the jury because they are going to say, well, why? Why are you so defensive?’ she added.
Azari added that Smollett might not be able to escape jail time if the judge feels that he’s lied, having rejected the chance to plead guilty at the first available opportunity.
He faces six felony counts of disorderly conduct, each of which carries a maximum four year jail sentence.
The manner in which Smollett responded to the prosecution’s questions on the stand was also slammed, with Azari commenting that his defensive demeanor was likely not well received by the jury
Smollett is accused of lying to police when he reported that two masked men physically attacked him yelling racist and anti-gay remarks near his Chicago home in 2019
Don Lemon also led his guest, defense lawyer Joey Jackson, to stick the boot into Smollett on his show an hour later.
No mention was made of Smollett’s claim in court Monday that Lemon had texted him in the aftermath of the alleged attack to warn that Chicago Police weren’t taking his claims seriously. Lemon, who is also gay, initially backed Smollett, but has since rounded on the actor as claims of his alleged lies picked up traction.
Jackson said he found Smollett’s version of events ‘murky’ and pulled apart multiple inconsistencies in his story.
He then added: ‘So when you have to explain, explain, explain, this is way too much explaining to me to the point that the narrative is inconsistent… it does. At the end of the day, actor, talented or not, it’s too much to overcome with respect to facts that are compellingly against him.’
Jackson said he expected jurors would find prosecutors’ version of events more compelling than Smollett’s, indicating that he thought the actor was headed for a conviction.
On Monday, Smollett told the jury that CNN host Don Lemon warned him Chicago police did not believe he was the victim of a racist homophobic attack, in what is being seen as another example of the network’s hosts using their clout and sources to help their friends.
Lemon, who is also gay, is said to have warned Smollett back in 2019 that Chicago Police Detectives were dubious about his story that he’d been beaten in the middle of the night by two white men wearing MAGA hats.
Smollett told his trial yesterday that Lemon warned him that Chicago PD detectives had told him they didn’t believe the story.
Lemon didn’t mention it on his show last night during a minutes-long segment with reporter Omar Jiminez, who had been at the trial.
Instead, the pair discussed the day’s events almost in their entirety without mentioning the text Smollett said Lemon sent him.
It comes less than a week after CNN fired Chris Cuomo, another primetime host, for advising his brother Governor Andrew Cuomo in his sex pest scandal, crafting statements for him and using his journalistic sources to investigate some of his accusers.
CNN dragged its heels in disciplining Cuomo, despite a swell of public outcry, before eventually firing him.
Lemon went on-air during the network’s deliberations to call Cuomo one of the ‘nicest people’ he’d ever met.
CNN host Lemon, who is also gay, is said to have warned Smollett back in 2019 that Chicago Police Detectives were dubious about his story that he’d been beaten in the middle of the night by two white men wearing MAGA hats
In this courtroom sketch, Special prosecutor Dan Webb, left, cross examines actor Jussie Smollett as Cook County Judge James Linn and members of Webb’s team listen Tuesday, December 7
‘He lost because — not his fault. Maybe people were — I don’t know what they were saying to him, maybe because of his representatives.
‘Who knows? But it was handled poorly,’ Lemon said in 2019.
Hamptons bartender suing Don Lemon for sexual assault
A bartender who claims CNN anchor Don Lemon jammed his finger in his face after rubbing his own genitals has said the news network is ‘a predator protecting machine’ that’s ‘rife with perverts.’
Dustin Hice, 41, spoke out in the wake of Chris Cuomo’s termination from the news channel after a sexual misconduct allegation was leveled at him last week, in the wake of another scandal involving his ties to his alleged sex pest brother Andrew.
Hice filed a suit against Lemon, 55, in August 2019 alleging that the CNN star assaulted him at a Hamptons bar. Lemon denies the allegations.
‘They’re a network rife with predators and perverts,’ Hice told Fox News on Monday night.
‘Lemon will have to testify under oath in the near future, but it’s good to see that there’s finally some accountability happening.’
So far, CNN is standing by Lemon, similar to how the network backed its former anchor Chris Cuomo until revelations from the New York Attorney General’s office forced them to take action.
Dustin Hice, 41, who is suing Don Lemon over sexual assault allegations has branded CNN a ‘predator protecting machine’
Hice is suing Lemon, pictued, who claims he was assaulted by the CNN anchor in July 2018
‘This is who they are. They’re a predator-protecting machine, they slander and smear victims with impunity,’ Hice added.
‘They’ve tried to grind me down, they’ve attempted to intimidate witnesses in my case, they’ve released confidential information about me in attempt to doxx me. They are complicit. This is who they are,’ he added.
Hice says he wants some closure after the alleged assault in which he claims that he was with co-workers at Murf’s Backstreet Tavern in Sag Harbor in July 2018, when he recognized Lemon.
Hice then made what he describes as a ‘cordial gesture’ and ‘tried to get Mr. Lemon’s attention and offered to buy Mr. Lemon a drink’.
Lemon responded to Hice’s offer by declining the drink and telling the young man he was ‘just trying to have a good time.’
Things then allegedly took a bizarre turn minutes later, according to Hice, who is asking for damages.
‘Sometime later that evening, unexpectedly, Mr. Lemon walked towards Hice and his colleagues inside of Murf’s,’ states the complaint.
‘At such time, Mr. Lemon, who was wearing a pair of shorts, sandals, and a t-shirt, put his hand down the front of his own shorts, and vigorously rubbed his genitalia, removed his hand and shoved his index and middle fingers into Plaintiff’s mustache under Hice’s nose.’
It then goes on to allege: ‘Mr. Lemon intensely pushed his fingers against Plaintiff’s face under Plaintiff’s nose, forcing Plaintiff’s head to thrust backward as Lemon repeatedly asked Hice “Do you like p***y or d**k?”.
While saying this, Mr. Lemon continued to shove his fingers into Hice’s face with aggression and hostility.
On Monday, Smollett said he had regrets about the press coverage that he participated in after the attack, including a GMA interview with Robin Roberts on the day the brothers were arrested returning to Chicago from Nigeria.
During that interview, he definitively identified surveillance footage of the brothers as the men who attacked him, unaware that the police had identified the two men as the brothers.
Smollett claimed that 20th Century Fox, the studio behind Empire, pushed him to do the interview.
‘I worked for a very powerful network, Fox. They told me to do the interview.’
He went on to say he ‘hates’ the attention he received as a result of the scandal and trial. On Monday, Smollett repeatedly denied plotting a hoax during his time on the stand.
Defense attorney Nenye Uche asked him directly: Have you ever planned a hoax?’
Smollett answered: ‘Never in my life.’ He also said his career has nosedived since the incident. Uche asked him: ‘Are you some George Clooney type actor.’ He replied: ‘No, I’ve lost my livelihood.’
Smollett said that he put the noose that had been placed on his neck back on before calling police because his manager told him ‘you can’t be f—–g with evidence’ on cross-examination.
The actor took the stand for three and a half hours of direct examination from attorney Nenye Uche’s team at Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago Monday.
He admitted to hooking up at a gay bathhouse with one of the two brothers involved in attacking him but said ‘there was no hoax’ – as the fired Empire actor testified Monday in his trial for lying to police about being the victim of a hate crime.
He was then questioned for the remainder of the day by special prosecutor Dan Webb on cross-examination.
‘We went alone, we got a private room again,’ Smollett said.
‘We made out a little bit and this time we masturbated together.’
Smollett says he ‘had put on a significant amount of weight’ and wanted to get in shape. ‘I had to be shirtless in the music video that we were prepping for.’
Experts thought the actor might decide to take a star turn in the witness box because of the damning testimony presented by the prosecution, which rested its case Thursday.
Smollett, 39, is charged with six counts of felony disorderly conduct for making what prosecutors say was a false police report about the alleged attack – one count for each time he gave a report – to three different officers.
The class 4 felony carries a prison sentence of up to three years, but experts have said if Smollett is convicted he likely would be placed on probation and ordered to perform community service.
Smollett initially gave background about his life as a child actor, saying that his family wasn’t rich as he grew up.
‘The Olsen twins were child stars. I was not a star,’ Smollett said, referring to himself as a ‘working child actor’ growing up, appearing in films such as the Mighty Ducks franchise.
Smollett began talking about his jobs as a young person, including a cashier, and a birthday clown.
He was asked to identify his family, including his late father, who is white and Jewish. He mentioned not always having gotten along with him but that they made peace before he died in 2015.
He added that his mother Janet was his ‘favorite human in the world.’
Smollett noted that he had begun his stint as Jamal Lyon on Empire making $27,000-$28,000 an episode, but had renegotiated that to over $100,000 per episode by the time of the attack.
He claimed he was happy with his contract at the time of the attack, noting that the studio that produced the show gave Smollett 50 percent of publishing rights to his songs and complete control of the master recordings.
Despite his reservations, Smollett says when authorities arrived ‘they were so nice to me.’
On cross-examination, Webb went after Smollett’s reluctance to both speak to and share evidence with the Chicago police.
Webb began by asking Smollett: ‘Did you refuse to provide evidence that you knew would be helpful to the police investigation?’
After some quibbling, Webb asks Smollett how often the actor told Chicago police he’d been the victim of a hate crime. Smollett says, ‘many times, I don’t know.’
Smollett said there were certain things ‘I decided I did not want to give’ based on police questions.
He then added: ‘I told them the truth, that I was the victim of a hate crime.’
Webb asked Smollett if he wanted the cops to believe he was the victim of a hate crime. Smollett said he wanted them to solve a crime that had happened to him.
The special prosecutor then asked Smollett if he refused to give police his phone because it would show his contact with Abimbola Osundairo.
Smollett said ‘there was no reason to be concerned about the Osundairo brothers.’
CNN host Don Lemon last night ignored the fact that Jussie Smollett told his hoax trial that Lemon texted him in 2019 telling him the cops didn’t believe him, and asked reporter Omar Jiminez to describe the day’s events without either one of them acknowledging his role in them
‘If he gets a settlement, there would be an uproar,’ one person said.
JUSSIE SMOLLETT TELLS COURT BROTHERS WERE TRYING TO SPOOK HIM INTO HIRING THEM AS SECURITY
Smollett, in his testimony on Monday, told the court he never intended for police to find out about the alleged attack.
He did not call 911 – it was his manager – and he says he reluctantly gave statements but was never sure that the cops would help.
Smollett at least twice strenuously denied plotting a hoax during his time on the stand
‘I am a Black man in America I do not trust police… I am also a well known figure and I’m openly gay … I want to play a boxer, I want to play a superhero… the moment I got beat I become a f****t who got his ass whooped,’ he told the court.
He said he didn’t hand over his cell phone or medical records because he knew they’d become leaked, and that he now believes the Osundairo brothers staged the attack because they wanted to scare him into hiring them as his security guards.
Yesterday, Lemon was accused of using his position to interfere in a police investigation.
Nicholas Fondacaro, the deputy Managing Editor of the American Media Research Center, slammed both Jiminez and Lemon for ignoring his role in the day’s testimony.
‘At 10-to-midnight, Don Lemon and Omar Jiminez finally discuss the Jussie Smollett trial.
‘But neither “journalist” mentioned how Smollett testified under oath that Lemon tipped him off to police skepticism of his hoax claims.
‘The whole segment lasted 5 minutes and 7 seconds.’
Smollett is expected to take the stand again on Tuesday morning.
He insists that he was friends with brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, the men who say he paid them to beat him up.
His defense has suggested he had a sexual relationship with Abimbola, who also goes by Abel, and that the pair masturbated in bathhouses together.
Smollett now believes the Osundairo brothers staged the attack because they wanted to scare him into hiring them as his security guards.
On Tuesday, in a hail Mary attempt to salvage the case, he testified that the pair decided to beat him up because they wanted to hire him for security.
He maintained that he never intentionally lied to police, that everything he said was true, and that he never wanted to involve the authorities because he believes cops to be racist and bigoted.
‘One, I am a Black man in America I do not trust police… I am also a well known figure and I’m openly gay … I want to play a boxer, I want to play a superhero… the moment I got beat I become a f****t who got his ass whooped,’ he told the court.
Abel and Ola have testified, along with police officers and detectives, that Smollett lied to boost his profile after producers on the set of Empire, the show he worked on, didn’t take seriously enough a threatening letter he received.
When doubts started to be raised about Smollett’s publicly denounced hate attack in 2019, Lemon told his audience it was ‘personal’ since he and Smollett had become close.
He said Smollett was ‘innocent until proven guilty’ but that if he had lied, he lied ‘to a lot of people, including me.
‘And that’s not cool.’
‘He squandered the good will of very high-profile people who one day may be running this country like Kamala Harris and Cory Booker and people like President Trump.’
Lemon went on to say that Smollett had ‘lost the fight in the court of public opinion.’
Actor Jussie Smollett arrives Monday with his mother Janet at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse for day five of his trial in Chicago. Smollett described Janet as his ‘favorite human in the world’
Special prosecutor Dan Webb, the man who has been leading the case against Smollett on behalf of the state of Illinois, arrives at the courthouse on December 6
There was no comment from the network on Monday evening about what Smollett had testified.
Lemon is also being sued by a Hamptons bartender who claims he rubbed his own genitals then shoved his fingers in his face in 2018.
The bartender yesterday told FOX News that CNN is a ‘network rife with predators and perverts.’
Mention of him meddling in the Smollett investigation last year comes just days after CNN fired Cuomo for his close involvement in his brother’s sex pest scandal.
Chris Cuomo is now threatening to sue the network for $18milliom, which he says remains on his contract.
He claims CNN’s Jeff Zucker was completely clued in on his role in his brother’s strategy to fight the sexual harassment claims, and that he is not being hung out to dry.
Unnamed sources yesterday told The New York Post that the network has ‘no intention’ of paying Cuomo out of his settlement.