Hollywood stars believed Jussie Smollett's hate crime hoax from the jump.
John Legend, Zendaya, Shonda Rhimes and Ellen DeGeneres led the way in condemning the alleged attack, but Elliot Page best captured the industry's sentiment during a "Late Show" appearance days after the Jan. 29, 2019 incident.
Page blamed the so-called hate crime on, who else, President Donald Trump.
We now know Smollett made it all up, even though the "Empire" star's story looked farcical from day one. Some insist those stars apologize for getting it wrong. Others suggest celebrities shouldn't be held to task for some of the same mistakes journalists made.
The problem is simple. Stars share fake news over, and over, again sans consequences. And many boast social media followings that dwarf mainstream news outlets in size and scope. Others weaponized broadcast platforms to do the same.
We're awash in fake news, and celebrities are some of the biggest culprits. We saw it recently with the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. Sober-eyed Americans saw the evidence exonerating the teen from charges he murdered two Black Lives Matter protesters, who were white and armed, during the melee in Kenosha, Wisc. Aug. 26, 2020.
The stars, leaning on fake news reports of the incident or their own fever dreams, served up serious misinformation. Singer Lizzo blamed the verdict on "white supremacy," even though Rittenhouse shot three white men and there wasn't any solid proof the teen had white supremacist leanings. Rittenhouse has since said that he's a supporter of BLM.
"Frozen" star Josh Gad ramped out the alarming rhetoric, ignoring the facts in the case.
"It has now been put it out there that vigilantes can just go and kill people protesting issues like racial equality whenever they want and get away with it. Think about that for a second."
Chelsea Handler offered her own surreal spin:
"A justice system built by white people, to benefit white people, while families who have lost loved ones are given no solace." Does she know one of the two victims was a convicted pedophile?
This is but a partial list of stars who ignored virtually all the facts associated with the case. The stars do this all the time.
Recall Hollywood's reaction to Covington Catholic kids debacle, with Debra Messing, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans and John Cusack excoriated the teens for doing … nothing wrong. (Curtis walked back her critique when the truth behind the viral video emerged).
Kathy Griffin called for their doxxing - "I want NAMES" – she tweeted before wriggling out of legal trouble for her thoughts.
Late night television is a veritable fountain of fake news. Hosts clung to the Russian collusion hoax as firmly as most media outlets, even the obviously fraudulent "pee pee" tape charge. We're still waiting for Colbert and co. to correct their comedy reportage while select outlets have attempted a minor version of just that.
Hosts like John Oliver and Meyers dramatically downplayed Portland's week-long violence during the height of the George Floyd protests.
"Protests had been mostly peaceful there… it's about one block that was actually starting to see fewer confrontations between protesters and police before federal agents moved in," Oliver said during a July 26 episode of HBO's "Last Week Tonight."
Meyers, in turn, dubbed the mayhem "light property damage and graffiti."
Lying? Gaslighting? A little of both. Either way, it's far cry from the truth.
Stephen Colbert joined the "mostly peaceful" brigade after mocking the Department of Justice for labeling Seattle, Portland and New York City as "anarchist jurisdictions." To be fair, Colbert was safe and sound far from the Big Apple chaos, let alone the mayhem happening on the West Coast.
One of the biggest public lies in modern times ties to President Trump's comments following the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virg. in 2017. Everyone from then-candidate Joe Biden to director Spike Lee took Trump's "very fine people" quote maliciously out of context.
Lee won an Oscar for the film that did just that, "BlacKkKlansman."
These are just celebrity musings, right? The mainstream media, which in many cases fuel these fake news blasts, often regurgitates the celebrities' misinformation. For example, several news outlets peddled Meyers' faux outrage over the Meals on Wheels program sans fact checks.
Did any mainstream Oscar coverage note Lee's selective editing was flat out corrupt?
It's a vicious cycle. The media peddles false narratives. Celebrities feast on them and sprinkle in their own lies. The same media often shares the new, even less accurate information with nary a fact check in sight.
What makes stars so susceptible to swallowing fake news whole? It's safe to say few consume alternate media sources, like Fox News, The Federalist and The Daily Wire, which routinely debunk false narratives. Even fewer likely follow right-of-center media critics such as Stephen Miller and Drew Holden on Twitter. In addition to the media sources, celebs are fed a constant diet of praise, and that praise comes from a Hollywood film industry that has little ideological diversity.
Reporters occasionally update their erroneous stories, adding "corrections" to egregiously wrong material. How often do stars attempt something similar?
The ironic part?
Mainstream media routinely savages podcaster Joe Rogan for sharing "disinformation," often doing just that in the process.
So where is similar outrage at Rogan's celebrity chums who do far worse, far more often?
Christian Toto is the author of "Virtue Bombs: How Hollywood Got Woke and Lost Its Soul"
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