Presenter Chris Rock addressed the elephant in the room at Saturday’s NAACP Image Awards, where he cracked wise about Jussie Smollett just four days after prosecutors dropped all charges against the Empire star for the alleged staging of a hate crime attack against himself in January.
“They said no Jussie Smollett jokes,” Rock began. “I know. What a waste of light skin. You know what I could do with that light skin? That curly hair? My career would be out of here. F–king running Hollywood!
“What the hell was he thinking?” Rock continued. “You’re Jessie from now on… You don’t even get the ‘U’ no more. That ‘U’ was respect. You ain’t gettin’ no respect from me.”
Smollett was a no-show at this weekend’s Image Awards ceremony. A four-time nominee (and one-time winner) for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, Smollett lost his category this year to Grey’s Anatomy‘s Jesse Williams. (For a complete list of winners, click here.)
After Smollett was relieved of all charges earlier this week, Chicago PD Superintendent Eddie Johnson, who previously criticized Smollett after evidence suggested that he staged the attack, maintained that justice had not been served. Meanwhile, Democratic Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that “[Smollett] did this all in the name of self-promotion,” and referred to the dropped charges as a “whitewash of justice.”
Even President Donald Trump weighed in on the stunning turn of events, imploring the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice to take a closer look at Smollett’s case. In a tweet, he referred to to the actor’s recent legal saga as “an embarrassment to our Nation!”
Following Smollett’s initial arrest on Feb. 21, Empire opted to remove his character, Jamal, from the final two episodes of the current season, and producers were said to be mulling a recast of the role. But once charges were dropped, 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment put out a joint statement, which read, “Jussie Smollett has always maintained his innocence and we are gratified that all charges against him have been dismissed.” It is unknown whether he’ll be invited to return to the series for a hypothetical Season 6.
Watch video of Rock’s Smollett quips below, then hit the comments with your reactions.