Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx on Friday denounced as “BS” Chicago’s yearlong obsession with Jussie Smollett, the former Empire actor re-indicted for allegedly staging a hate crime against himself.
Foxx’s handling of the heater case threatens to cut short her political career and turn her into a one-termer. But with the election now less than two weeks away, she’s on the offensive.
On Thursday, she appeared on the Ben Joravsky Show and called the city’s obsession with the case more than a year after it happened “bull-s—t.” By Friday, she had cleaned up her verbiage; she called it “BS.”
“That we are continuing to talk about this in a city that continues to deal with gun violence, in a city that is continuing to reckon with police accountability. That somehow this case has been elevated to one of the greatest criminal injustices in our time feels disingenuous,” Foxx said.
“I talk to too many family members of [victims of] violence who are frustrated that we spend more time talking about this case than the unsolved homicide rate. I talk to people who are worried about their young people who say, ‘Why do we keep talking about Jussie?’ It’s not me. It’s what I hear from the community:`We can’t believe we’re still talking about this.’”
Foxx has been under fire for a series of decisions tied to the Smollett case that go beyond abruptly dropping the charges without explaining the reversal or demanding an admission of guilt from the actor.
They include “recusing” herself from the case but never doing so formally and attempting to persuade now-fired Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson to transfer the investigation to the FBI at a time when Smollett was still viewed as the victim of a hate crime.
At the time, Foxx had been contacted by an influential supporter of the Empire actor: Tina Tchen, a Chicago attorney and former chief of staff for former first lady Michelle Obama.
There were text messages that suggested Foxx thought her office may have been “overcharging” Smollett even after her self-described “recusal.”
Special Prosecutor Dan Webb is investigating her handling of the case, saying the state’s attorney’s office was unable to show that other cases had been similarly handled.
On Friday, Foxx flatly denied the central charge leveled by her opponents: Tchen was asking her to do a political favor for Smolllett.
“Asking a U.S. attorney and asking the FBI to investigate is probably the last thing someone would want if they were trying to get away with something,” Foxx said.
Foxx also pushed back on the notion she should have demanded an admission of guilt and a public apology from Smollett for the damage he caused to Chicago’s reputation by making a bogus hate-crime claim.
“The reputation of the city of Chicago wasn’t marred by Jussie Smollett. This is a city that was named the false confession capital of the United States on ‘60 Minutes.’ This is a city that has paid almost $1 billion in police misconduct. This is a city that, when I came into office, had 760 people murdered and 4,000 people shot,” she said.
“I get that what this person did was obnoxious and stupid . . . [But] we have people every day who have agreements with our court to resolve their cases without public apologies. We did not want to treat him differently than we would treat any other defendant.”
For those still demanding a pound of flesh from Smollett, Foxx contended the actor has suffered plenty.
“This is someone who hasn’t worked, lost his job, is the subject of ridicule on local, national [television], Dave Chappelle’s comedy special about him. He is getting, if we think about restorative justice, some measure of justice for his actions,” she said.
“The apology he’ll have to deal with in his next round of trial.”
On the day of the re-indictment, Foxx’s campaign accused Webb, a former U.S. attorney in Chicago, of roiling the political waters in “James Comey-like” timing, invoking the former FBI director’s decision to announce an investigation of then-candidate Hillary Clinton’s emails ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
She acknowledged Friday the angry tone of the news release was a mistake. Being forced to deal with the case again on the eve of early voting “felt very political,” she said, but she “should have taken a breath” before venting her “frustration.”