Howard initially posted a video to Instagram on Saturday night featuring Smollett with a baby. The post was captioned, “All your lil homies got you… We love the hell outta you ♥️.”
After a commenter criticized him for supporting a “lying felon,” Howard responded with a lengthy comment of his own in defense of Smollett.
“The Jussie I know could never even conceive of something so unconscious and ugly,” he said. “His innocence or judgment is not for any of us to decide. 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. There’s nothing more harmful than a fake friend!”
Smollett’s fellow co-star Gabourey Sidibe had previously expressed her support for him throughout his legal trouble. In a since-deleted Instagram post one day before Smollett’s arrest, Sidibe wrote, “I know him, I believe him, I stand with him.”
As TVLine previously reported, Empire producers are considering bringing in a new actor to take over the role of Jamal Lyon in Season 6, should the show get renewed. Fox previously chose to suspend Smollett, who will sit out the final two episodes of Season 5.
Smollett, who has played Jamal on the Fox drama since its debut, was arrested early Thursday in Chicago and faces a felony criminal charge of disorderly conduct/filing a false police report in connection with his alleged attack. At the time, 20th Century Fox Television and Fox maintained, “We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options.”