Fallen “Empire” star Jussie Smollett has defiantly declared he’s “not a piece of s–t” after “gaining clarity” during his recent mini-prison stint — but many viewers of the 2022 BET Awards aren’t ready to let him off the hook just yet.
Smollett, 40, made his controversial return to the red carpet at Sunday Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theater — after being sprung in March when he served only six days of his 150-day sentence in March for five counts of felony disorderly conduct at Cook County Jail in Chicago.
The 2015 BET nominee for best actor was ostensibly there to hype his directorial debut with BET+ streaming flick “B-Boy Blues” — but he announced some other big plans, too.
“This has always been the plan, to expand my empire, so to speak,” Smollett expounded to the press corps on the scene, the Daily Mail reported. “To expand the level of what I want to do. I got to direct multiple episodes of the show as well as my music videos, I directed all of them.”
And despite his high-profile fall from grace — he was convicted of paying two men to pretend to be racist-homophobic MAGA supporters and attack him with a noose and bleach — Smollett still seems to consider himself something of a role model for the youths.
“But to be able to usher in just a new generation of artists of actors of this amazing talent that’s out there that has so much to tell you,” Smollett told reporters. “That’s what is feeding me.”
Many social media watch dogs weren’t immediately feeling it, with thousands of people turning him into a trending topic on Twitter, expressing everything from general disbelief to outright outrage.
“That’s crazy how Jussie Smollett is out & about, showing his face like that situation never happened,” proffered one of the more polite commenters.
“Who let Jussie Smollett into the #BETAwards?,” another Twitter critic snarkeed, spawning dozens of retweets and hundreds of likes. “This n–a faked a hate crime and blamed white people for it, and got a slap on the wrist. If you got money, regardless of race, you have privilege.”
Another Twit wit chimed in with “Everyone watching Jussie Smollett on the red carpet,” a post accompanied with a vintage photograph of Jay-Z and Beyoncé looking aghast.
“God, these random cuts to Jussie Smollett really make me uncomfortable,” @sleepymaserati commented, apparently something up the thoughts of the broadcast’s most generous viewers.
Meanwhile, one outraged anti-fan got brutally down to the point: “Not Jussie Smollet trying to get this black card reinstated #BETAwards #redcarpet,’ viewer @iMjustkinji tweeted.
Alas, Smollett’s comeback project, “B-Boy Blues” — an adaptation of James Earl Hardy’s novel — is set to premiere July 9 on BET+ streaming platform. It’s being billed as his feature directorial debut after helping two episodes of his prior series, Lee Daniels’ “Empire,” back in 2018.
The actor-singer and former “Mighty Ducks” child star — who starred as Jamal Lyon’s on FOX’s Lee Daniels hit “Empire from 2015 until he was let go amid public backlash in 2019 — also promised his fans he “absolutely” intends to drop some “very, very good music very soon.”
In an interview with radio’s Sway Calloway’s SiriusXM show, “Sway in the Morning” last week, Smollett — who is currently appealing his conviction — maintained his innocence, insisting he did not lie about the attack.
“If I had done this, I’d be a piece of s–t — and I don’t think that’s really questionable,” Smollett told Sway, adding that being a black gay man makes it impossible for him to stage the attack. “If I had done something like this, it would mean that I stuck my fist in the pain of black African Americans in this country for over 400 years.”