Jussie Smollett: CNN's Don Lemon ignores jail sentence following revelation he texted actor during 2019 probe

Jason Whitlock on Jussie Smollett: ‘This was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen’

‘Fearless’ host reacts to former ‘Empire’ star’s sentencing on ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight.’

CNN’s Don Lemon skipped the breaking news of Jussie Smollett’s jail sentence after the anchor was swept up in the disgraced actor’s trial for his 2019 hate crime hoax. 

On Thursday evening, Smollett was sentenced to 30 months felony probation, restitution to the city of Chicago in the amount of $120,106, a fine of $25,000 and 150 days in the Cook County Jail. 

Lemon did not mention Smollett during the host’s two hours of programming later that night after previously addressing the former “Empire” star’s conviction in December. His show focused on the continued Russian war on Ukraine.

Actor Jussie Smollett appears with his attorneys at his sentencing hearing at the Leighton Criminal Court Building, Thursday, March 10, 2022, in Chicago. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool)

Smollett, who was accused of staging his own hate crime, testified in December that he received a text from Lemon, relaying information that the Chicago Police Department didn’t believe Smollett’s account of what happened, Fox News’ Matt Finn reported from the Windy City courthouse.

Lemon told his viewers at the time that the story was “personal” since he and Smollett had been acquaintances and were in constant communication since the incident, and that the former “Empire” star told Lemon what he said had happened to him, which he admitted raised lots of questions.

He stressed that while Smollett is “innocent until proven guilty,” he still “squandered the good will of a whole lot of people” if his story wasn’t true.

“He even lied to a lot of people … including me. And that’s not cool,” Lemon said to his viewers in February 2019. “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.”

CNN anchor Don Lemon. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)
(Theo Wargo)

Cook County Judge James Linn alluded to Smollett’s influence on the media during Thursday’s evening sentencing, telling the actor, “You knew mainstream journalists. They reacted.”

Lemon was in good company as none of the primetime hosts on CNN nor MSNBC addressed Smollett’s sentencing, according to Grabien transcripts. None of MSNBC’s most-watched programs even mentioned his conviction in December. 

Smollett was found guilty on five of six counts of disorderly conduct stemming from his false allegation to Chicago Police in late January 2019 that he was the victim of a hate crime. 

 Former "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett arrives at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building to hear the verdict in his trial on December 9, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. Smollett was 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. Smollett was found guilty of five of the six counts against him.
(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The actor claimed that two men approached him in the early hours of the morning while walking in downtown Chicago during the below-freezing polar vortex, used racist and homophobic slurs, claimed that “this is MAGA country,” assaulted him, covered him with bleach and threw a noose over his neck. 

His story quickly fell apart as his alleged attackers turned out to be a pair of Nigerian brothers who testified they were paid by Smollett to orchestrate the attack. 

Despite the questionable circumstances of the initial allegations, prominent Democrats, celebrities and members of the media rushed to express solidarity with Smollett. Even President Trump initially denounced the attack when asked about the incident by a reporter.

Fox News’ Julius Young contributed to this report. 

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