“Empire” actor Terrence Howard on Saturday offered support for scandal-plagued co-star Jussie Smollett, who was charged last week with filing a false police report in which he claimed to be the victim of an alleged hate crime.
“All your lil homies got you… We love the hell outta you,” Howard wrote in an Instagram post on Saturday that featured a video of Smollett tickling a baby.
Howard plays the role of fictional music mogul Lucious Lyon and the father of Smollett’s character Jamal Lyon in “Empire,” a TV drama series on Fox that debuted in 2015. Following Smollett’s arrest last week, Fox announced Smollett’s character had been cut from the final two episodes of the season.
Chicago police say Smollett, 36, paid two brothers to stage an attack against him last month in an attempt to boost his public profile because he was dissatisfied with his “Empire” salary.
Smollett had told police that two men attacked him during the early morning hours of Jan. 29. He said they wrapped a rope around his neck, shouted homophobic and racist slurs at him and poured bleach on him. He also said they told him, “This is MAGA country,” referring to President Donald Trump’s 2016 “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.
Police now say Smollett fabricated his story, and some fans slammed Howard for his continuing support of the actor. But the star of the 2004 film “Crash” responded by calling on critics to reserve their judgment.
“Sorry you feel that way but that’s the only Jussie I know,” Howard wrote. “The Jussie I know could never even conceive of something so unconscious and ugly. His innocence or judgment is not for any of us to decide.”
He continued: “Stay in your lane and my lane is empathy and love and compassion for someone I’ve called my son for five years. It’s God’s job to judge and it’s ours to love and hope, especially for those that we claim to have loved.”
Police initially said the alleged assault was being investigated as a hate crime. And in the case’s immediate aftermath, Howard and a range of other celebrities and politicians rallied to Smollett’s side.
But after police tracked down and interviewed the two brothers they said were involved in the incident, authorities arrested Smollett on Wednesday and charged him with orchestrating it.
Smollett has denied staging the attack and maintains he was the victim of a hate crime.
The controversy has sparked backlash from LGBTQ and social justice advocacy groups who worry Smollett’s allegedly false police report will overshadow the real threats that beset their communities.