Jussie Smollett Seems To Mirror These Other Career-Killing Cases

Jussie Smollett attending the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's 60th Anniversary Opening Night Gala Benefit.
Theo Wargo / Getty Image

Empire star Jussie Smollett previously claimed that two masked men perpetrated a hate crime against him. Unfortunately for him, police say evidence strongly suggests that Smollett’s claims are an elaborate hoax, reports CBS Chicago, and he is facing some serious charges if found guilty. Here are other celebrities that either outrightly killed their career with hoaxes, or orchestrated suspected publicity stunts that some critics felt backfired against them and severely tarnished their image.

Morton Downey Jr.

In the late 1980’s, the era of controversial tabloid TV was ushered in with The Morton Downey Jr. Show. The show, helmed by the late Morton Downey Jr., was initially a success after it debuted in 1987 — but viewership started to decline from 1988 through 1989. In April of 1989, he claimed that he was attacked by neo-Nazis that painted a swastika on his face. Speculation ran rampant that the attack was a hoax, orchestrated by the talk show host in order to gain attention. One reason behind the disbelief was police said that there was no supporting evidence, per The New York Times. Another reason was that the swastikas had been painted on backwards, suggesting that Morton Downey Jr. had self-applied them while gazing in a mirror.

Brian Williams

Brian Williams was a well-respected journalist and anchorman whose extensive journalism career has spanned from 1981 to the present. He additionally won a Peabody Award for his coverage of Hurricane Katrina while he was the NBC Nightly News anchor for nine years. His reputation, however, was tarnished after Williams was caught embellishing events that occurred during his coverage of the Iraq War in 2003. Afterward, Williams was suspended and demoted from the Nightly News. The Chicago Tribune reports that he recanted the story, apologized for his tale-telling, and dusted himself off. He’s now been the 11th Hour anchor from 2016 to the present.

Kim Kardashian

The robbery of Kim Kardashian that happened in 2014 in Paris was either one of the most traumatic episodes that ever happened in her life, according to the reality TV star — or a well orchestrated publicity stunt, according to The Richest. Fans of the beautiful socialite felt that it was just a matter of time until she got robbed, since she often flaunts her shiny baubles and wealth in public. Not so fast, some critics said. They felt that the narrative that thieves nabbed £7.8 million was just one big hoax, one strategically timed to provide a juicy story line for the premiering season of Keeping Up with The Kardashians. For the time being, the star is still wealthy and successful, but if the public ever finds out the robbery was staged, they could lose interest.

Dustin Diamond

Dustin Diamond, better known as Screech on Saved by the Bell, can be added to this list because of salacious, refuted claims he made about the show’s cast members and crew in his tell-all book, Behind the Bell. Many claims made by Diamond were false, his colleagues said. Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who Diamond accused in his book of using steroids, was prominent in his criticism of Diamond’s claims.

Gosselaar, who played Zack on the show, said that his experiences on the set of Saved by the Bell were positive, and that he never noted any of the negative occurrences in Diamond’s book as actually having taken place. Later, Dustin Diamond blamed the claims made in the book on an overzealous ghost writer, who he said took statements that he made and fabricated them greatly, according to Us Weekly.

Al Sharpton

The Reverend Al Sharpton has led a storied career, and, among other great accomplishments, he was an adviser to former president Barack Obama. He didn’t perpetuate a falsehood — but before he became a household name — there was Tawana Brawley, whose fictitious case he championed. In 1987, he was drawn into fake rape and kidnapping claims by Brawley, who was a teenager at the time. A special state grand jury later determined that the teen had fabricated the story, according to NPR. Interestingly enough, Al Sharpton spoke out on Jussie Smollett’s alleged hoax, per Fox News, saying the celebrity should “face accountability to the maximum'” if the attack was orchestrated.