APTOPIX Empire Cast Member Attack

"Empire" actor Jussie Smollett leaves Cook County jail following his release, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019, in Chicago. Smollett was charged with disorderly conduct and filling a false police report when he said he was attacked in downtown Chicago by two men who hurled racist and anti-gay slurs and looped a rope around his neck, a police said. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)

How many of you leaped immediately to believe Jussie Smollett’s accusations? Be honest.

How many of you wanted to believe his accusations? Be truthful.

How many of you were skeptical, but still leaned toward the possibility of Smollett’s accusations being true? You know you did.

How many of you had questions from the beginning and chose to reserve comment? Please be truthful to yourself.

There will be many fudging the truth by answering “yes” to the last question. I am not one of them. The first time I heard the allegations, I told my wife, “I don’t know about that. It just seems like way too much.”

That said, this seems like an incredibly shameful and potentially dangerous act by Smollett, who maintains his innocence.

If you have not followed the news over the past nearly two months, here’s the Reader’s Digest version of the furor Smollett caused. Smollett is a gay African-American actor and singer who plays the role of a gay singer on the popular TV show “Empire.”

About a month ago, Smollett alleged that he had been the victim of a racist, homophobic attack by two white men with apparent leanings toward President Donald Trump. After a long investigation, law enforcement authorities arrested Smollett, alleging he lied about the incident.

His claims set off a firestorm across the country. Politicians, talk show hosts, and entertainers were enraged. Some, mostly Democrats, talked about how the seed for this violence had been planted and nurtured by Trump and his occasional nod to a racist element of his base. (Remember his there-are-some-good-people among-the-racists-white-nationalists-and-Klansmen-in-Charlottesville, Virginia remark.)

The instantaneous comments from the political left after Smollett’s allegation were strong. “This is a sickening and outrageous attack, and horribly, it’s the latest of too many hate crimes at LGBTQ people and people of color,” said Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York U.S. senator who is also seeking the Democratic nomination to run for president.

Her comments and those of others were typical of people legitimately angry about the rising tide of hate in America and those who saw it as another rock to attack Trump and the David Duke, Et al. portion of his political base. Like Gillibrand and others, they took to social media and whatever TV camera they could get in front of to show their anger.

This attack was like Christmas for the Democrats.

However, when Smollett’s claims were unpacked, they were just too fantastical to believe. The young actor claimed he was out on a freezing night, assaulted by two white men who hurled racist and homophobic slurs at him. They also threw some kind of liquid on him and put a noose around his neck. One of the attackers, he alleged, said “This is MAGA country” in reference to the president’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.

The noose was, for lack of a better phrase, overkill. And the thought of one of the two white men allegedly yelling “MAGA country” sent it way over the top.

If this was the NFL, Smollett would have been flagged for unnecessary roughness, piling on or a flagrant helmet-to-helmet hit (Unless he was playing for the Rams against the Saints).

Could something like this happen? Sure, it can. Similar attacks have occurred throughout history. And there is a recent plot for a hate crime extravaganza that, if it had not been interrupted, could have been much worse than anything in the Smollett case.

A white Coast Guard officer was accused last week of plotting a terror attack with intended victims that included journalists for CNN and MSNBC, along with Democratic members of Congress, African-Americans and other office holders. Agents seized 15 guns and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition in his apartment.

The common thread among all of his targets is that many were African Americans, liberals and avowed opponents of the Trump administration.

But what happens now, though, is that such allegations of racist acts that don’t have a cellphone camera audience witnessing it will have to pass the Smollett test. And, maybe that’s a good thing.

What Smollett is alleged to have done is a travesty against the country, the president and himself. Smollett will have a difficult time recovering both personally and professionally. He deserves whatever he gets, and hopefully, some of that will be mental health care.

In the meantime, beware folks. Take measured steps when similar claims are made in the future, both on the left and the right. And, they will come. In a way, Smollett’s disgrace may be medicine we can all use.

Email Edward Pratt, a former newspaperman who writes a weekly Advocate column, at epratt1972@yahoo.com.