Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Thursday emphatically urged President Donald Trump to butt out of the ongoing drama over embattled “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, as he blamed him for creating a “toxic environment” in which someone would allegedly fabricate such an attack.
“My recommendation is the president go to Opening Day baseball, sit on the sidelines and stay out of this,” Emanuel told a group of reporters.
The mayor called Chicago a “Trump-free zone” and blamed the president for creating a “toxic” and “hate-filled” environment that allowed Smollett to think he could get away with faking a hate crime.
“Let me be clear about something. The only reason Jussie Smollett thought he could take advantage of a hoax about a hate crime is because of the environment, the toxic environment that Donald Trump created,” Emanuel said.
“This is a president who drew a moral equivalency between people who are trying to perpetuate bigotry and those who are trying to fight bigotry. As somebody who has started his own journey in politics fighting the neo-Nazis in Skokie and then down to Marquette Park, President Trump should literally take his politics, move it aside.”
The mayor continued, “He’s created a toxic environment and now he’s created a toxic, vicious cycle, in my view. The only reason Jussie Smollett thought he could get away with this hoax about a hate crime is because of the environment President Trump created.”
Emanuel is a frequent critic of the president, who said this week he’d have federal authorities look into the tangled Smollett case.
The mayor said Trump and Smollett are part of the same “vicious, toxic cycle,” a cycle he wants to break.
The exiting mayor also suggested that Smollett write a $130,000 check to Chicago with “I’m accountable for the hoax” written on the memo line.
Smollett was accused of faking an anti-black, anti-gay hate crime against himself in order to drum up publicity for his role on a Fox television show. Denying the claims of fraud, he maintained that on January 29, two men beat him, poured bleach on him and placed a rope around his neck before yelling, “This is MAGA country” (a blunt reference to Trump’s campaign slogan “Make American Great Again”).
A week before the alleged attack, Smollett told authorities he received a threatening letter at work. Chicago police believe he made that up, too.
The Smollett saga gained new energy this week when prosecutors unexpectedly announced they would drop the 16-count indictment against the actor.
The surprise dismissal triggered a swift backlash from the mayor and police chief, with many observers asking the same question: Why isn’t Smollett being forced to admit what prosecutors had said they could prove in court — that the entire assault story was a concocted publicity stunt?
Trump, wading into the Smollett saga, said he’d asked federal law enforcement officials to look into Smollett’s case.
“I think the case in Chicago is an absolute embarrassment to our country, and I have asked that they look at it,” Trump told reporters on the White House lawn.
Earlier Thursday, he tweeted that he wanted federal authorities to investigate.
There has been no word from the FBI or the Justice Department on whether they’re investigating the matter.
After the city delivered a letter to Smollett’s legal team seeking $130,000 from the actor, Smollett’s lawyers demanded an apology from Emanuel and Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson for “dragging an innocent man’s character through the mud.”
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s has defended her office’s actions but said dropping the charges “in no way exonerates” Smollett.
Fox News’ Liam Quinn contributed to this Fox News piece by Barnini Chakraborty, which is used by permission.