WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump, in a twisted development, is giving embattled “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett credit for a new campaign slogan “this is MAGA country.”
At a rally Saturday night in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Trump brought up the Smollett controversy, asserting that he heard the “MAGA country” play on his signature line for the first time after the actor said he was attacked near his Chicago apartment in January.
Smollett, who is African American and gay, claimed he was attacked by two men who shouted “this is MAGA country” and wearing “Make America Great Again” hats.
While the phrase “this is MAGA country” in Chicago is seen as a negative, in places where Trump is popular – and where he is speaking to his base – the phrase becomes a badge of honor, and that’s why Trump really likes the line.
“We may have the greatest theme in the history of politics,” Trump said.
“It’s called Make America Great Again. It’s called MAGA country. It’s called MAGA country.
“You know, I didn’t hear that term until that third-rate actor in Chicago went out and he said, ‘I was beaten up by MAGA country.’ Can you believe it? Now that’s a hate crime right? He said he was beaten up by MAGA country. Turned out to be a total lie.”
The audience booed at the mention of Chicago, Trump’s favorite city to bash.
“But think of it. MAGA. Make America Great Again. And by the way I have to tell you that case in Chicago is a disgrace to our nation,” Trump said to cheers.
Trump’s “Make America Great Again” line became his signature in his 2016 presidential bid and remains a constant in Trump speeches and other comments, with the acronym “MAGA” evolving for tweets.
The case remains in the national spotlight because of a variety of interrelated hot button controversies having to do with the intersections of crime, race, homophobia, celebrity privilege, prosecutorial discretion and judgment calls made by Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.
Chicago law enforcement authorities were initially sympathetic to Smollett, considering the incident a potential hate crime. Later, Smollett was charged with faking his attack. A short time later, the 16 charges against him were resolved with a hand slap.
Trump’s been bringing up the Smollett case ever since; whether it becomes a staple of his campaign rally speeches remains to be seen.
In April, speaking to the National Republican Congressional Committee, Trump said: “How about the guy from Chicago? The actor that nobody ever heard of.” He added Smollett said he “got taken out by ‘MAGA country.’ I said, ‘What the hell was that?’ I guess that’s a hate crime, right?”
In March, Trump said in a tweet and comments that the FBI and the Justice Department will review Smollett’s case, calling it “an absolute embarrassment to our country, and somebody has to at least take a very good hard look at it.”
It appears the FBI and Justice Department did not take the tweet and an informal comment as an order to do something otherwise not already being done.