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CNN’s Keith Boykin, Van Jones Get Emotional Over Jussie Smollett’s ‘Betrayal’: He Owes Fans ‘Lifetime of Atonement’

As Jussie Smollett faces charges of disorderly conduct from the Chicago PD, CNN’s Keith Boykin, Van Jones, and Joey Jackson lamented the broader connotations that the Empire actor’s false claim will have for others.

The three African American commentators joined CNN’s Kate Bolduan on Thursday to talk about Smollett’s arrest after he allegedly faked a hate crime against himself for financial gain. Boykin, a personal friend, and defender of Smollett, started things off by saying “I feel devastated” by how the development has played out.

“It’s heartbreaking. I’m hoping still in spite of the evidence presented that it is not true and he is still innocent until proven guilty,” Boykin said. “He had no reason to do something like this…A lot of people in my community are thinking this is not something we want and need. We want attention on the issues of black LGBTQ violence and hate crimes. We want it focussed where it should be, we don’t need a distraction like this.”

Jones got in next by calling it “the fall of an icon,” saying Smollett was “a Jackie Robinson against homophobia in the black community” with his role on the show. As he warned people that it’s still too early for a rush to judgment, Jones conceded that Smollett’s “betrayal” puts the social justice movement back a long way.

“To do what he did has hurt the cause against racism and the cause against homophobia if it’s true. If there is anyway that this can be redeemed I hope it can be, but he owes those same young black gay men he was addressing [in his GMA interview], he owes them not just an apology, but a lifetime of atonement. This ain’t nothing to play with, and he was playing with it. Shame on him.”

The conversation continued with Jackson remarking that Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson was right when he said Smollett allegedly used real issues of racism and homophobia for his personal gain. To this point, Bolduan got in and noted that Smollett supposedly faked this crime for “the pettiest and smallest of reasons.”

Watch above, via CNN.

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