WARNING: This story contains graphic language.
Chris Rock was told to steer clear of the Empire actor Jussie Smollett’s legal issues at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) awards ceremony on March 30 — but the comedian had other plans.
Rock was presenting at the NAACP awards ceremony, where Smollett was nominated for his role as Jamal Lyon in Empire.
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The 54-year-old comedian took aim at Smollett after all criminal charges against the 36-year-old actor were dropped by prosecutors earlier this month.
“They said no Jussie Smollett jokes. 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***ing running Hollywood,” Rock joked.
“What the hell was he thinking?” Rock asked. “From now on, you’re Jessie from now on. You don’t even get the ‘U’ no more. That ‘U’ was respect. You don’t get no respect from me.”
Smollett was not in attendance at Saturday night’s show. He lost the award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his work on Empire to Grey’s Anatomy star Jesse Williams.
Not everyone was laughing at Rock’s jokes. “I stand with Jussie,” Yara Shahidi said, while receiving the Outstanding Comedy award alongside her Black-ish castmates including Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross.
Smollett had faced 16 felony counts alleging he lied to police about a racial and homophobic attack against him in January.
Judge Steven Watkins allowed the dismissal of all charges.
In a statement, the prosecutor’s office spokeswoman Tandra Simonton offered no detailed explanation.
The statement said, “After reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr. Smollett’s volunteer service in the community and agreement to forfeit his bond to the City of Chicago, we believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case.”
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Smollett had made a $10,000 bond payment to the city to get out of jail after his arrest on the charges.
This statement was released mere weeks after Smollett, 36, was indicted for allegedly filing a false police report. In February, he was charged with felony disorderly conduct after Chicago police said he orchestrated his own alleged hate-crime attack because he was unhappy with his salary on the TV show Empire.
Smollett spoke following the announcement that the charges against him have been dropped.
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“I have been truthful and consistent on every level since day one,” he said. “I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of one drop of what I’ve been accused of.”
The Beautiful singer called himself “a man of faith” and said he wanted to move on from this.
“I want to thank my family, my friends, the incredible people of Chicago and all over the country and the world who have prayed for me, who have supported me,” he said.
— With files from the Associated Press