Jussie Smollett skips NAACP Awards, Chris Rock takes aim: 'What the hell was he thinking?
Despite support from Anthony Anderson, Jussie Smollett was a no-show at Saturday night's NAACP Image Awards in Hollywood.
The "Empire" actor was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, but lost out to “Grey’s Anatomy” star Jesse Williams. Williams won the award during the untelevised portion of the show at the awards dinner Friday, which USA TODAY confirmed Smollett also did not attend.
But that didn't stop Chris Rock from taking aim.
"They said 'No Jussie Smollett jokes,' " said Rock, who was there to present Outstanding Comedy Series. But that didn't stop him. "What a waste of light skin," Rock cracked. "Do you know what I could do with that light skin? That curly hair? My career would be out of here! I'd be running Hollywood."
"What the hell was he thinking? You're 'Jessie' from now on," Rock continued, as cameras showed Trevor Noah cracking up in the crowd. "You don't get the 'u' no more. That 'u' was respect. You ain't getting no respect from me!"
Smollett flew from Chicago to Los Angeles on Wednesday, ABC News reported, fueling speculation he would attend the Image Awards, which honor entertainers and writers of color.
Organizers told USA TODAY that, to their knowledge, Smollett was not present Saturday. A rep for Smollett did not respond to USA TODAY's request for comment
Anderson hosted the show, broadcast live on TV One, but did not mention Smollett in his opening monologue. Smollett's "Empire" co-star Taraji P. Henson won outstanding actress in a drama but was not present to accept her award.
Smollett did get support at least one time during the show.
"I stand with Jussie," said Yara Shahidi, while helping the "Black-ish" cast accept their Outstanding Comedy award.
Smollett was accused of faking a racist, anti-gay attack on himself in January, but prosecutors decided to dismiss all 16 felony counts against the actor, sparking outrage. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson have been among those issuing strong rebukes, with the mayor calling the dismissal a ”whitewash of justice."
On Friday night, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx wrote in a Chicago Tribune editorial that she is open to an outside investigation into her office’s decision to drop all charges against Smollett.
Meanwhile, the "Empire" actor has continued to maintain his innocence.
“I have been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one,” Smollett told reporters after the charges were dropped. “It’s been an incredibly difficult time. One of the worst of my entire life. … Now I would like nothing more than to just to get back to work and get on with my life.”
This is the fourth consecutive year Smollett has been nominated for the Image Awards' Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series category. He previously won in that category in 2017 and has been in attendance for the last three award shows.
Winners at the 2019 NAACP Image Awards included Jay Z, who received the President's Award for his public service achievements and Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who won the Chairman's award. "Black Panther" won Outstanding Motion Picture, while Beyonce took home Entertainer of the Year.