“Empire” Star Jussie Smollett Takes The Media To Task For Its Coverage Of Donald Trump (Video)

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Last night, Comedy Central was once again the sight of an engrossing, multi-dynamic look at American racial politics, thanks to the perspectives shared on The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore. With many of today’s top news stories approached from perspectives of people of color, the show often delves into the complexities of race relations with a humorous yet sharp critique, and last night’s episode was no different. In the panel segment of the show, host Larry Wilmore was joined by show contributors Rory Albanese and Franchesca Ramsey and special guest Jussie Smollett. As Jamal Lyon on the Fox juggernaut television series Empire, Smollett’s level of fame has increased tenfold, but his appearance on last night’s panel provided an opportunity for him to do much more than promote the forthcoming season of his show. Along with his co-panelists, Smollett dropped a ton of science, creating several moments during which one can almost hear an invisible mic drop.

The first topic up for discussion was, of course, Donald Trump. with every passing week bringing forth yet another hubbub surrounding the presidential candidate’s words or actions, it’s become standard fare for comedians to unload jokes about his campaign, but Smollett combined humor and critique in really effective ways. Wilmore brings up the relationship between the media and Trump, namely that the latter has received significantly more airtime than other candidates. To his panel, he presents a question relating to whether Trump has invented the current media atmosphere or whether he is just exploiting it, to which Smollett responds “He’s manipulating the media, but the media is letting him for ratings. We’re in this world right now where we’re stuck with this reality TV world. Reality TV is fun, but not when we’re talking about the presidency of the United States of America.” Wilmore makes mention of his feeling that the media and Donald Trump are in some sort of abusive relationship, as if their overabundance of Trump coverage is harming the public’s perception of them, but they can’t seem to escape the cycle. Smollett is quick to rebuke that metaphor, saying firmly “to say the media is in an abusive relationship with Trump is to say that they are being abused, and they are not victims. The media’s not victims, Trump is not a victim.”

In a slight shift of focus, the conversation then pivots to what role, if any, the American people have in the rise of Trump’s presence in this campaign. Alabanese seems to feel strongly that “it’s on us,” whereas Smollett agrees but adds a fine point. “Politics is about money. At the end of the day, [a politician’s] job is to raise funds for their campaign, which is absolute bullshit to begin with anyways. But the point is…we’re talking about more than money. There’s nothing wrong with money. What’s wrong with that is when money is then attached to hate.”

In a bonus clip, Smollett takes part in the show’s “Keep it 100” sketch, where he is asked to answer “who do you think had it tougher in history, Black people with slavery or Jewish people with Hitler?” Unsurprisingly, Smollett’s first reaction is “aw, that is so fucked up.” However, it’s made quickly apparent that it ain’t so serious, and it’s pretty entertaining.

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