"His Hollywood career is over," PR expert Ronn Torossian on Jussie Smollett's hopes of a comeback
Public relations expert Ronn Torossian expressed his views on the Jussie Smollett situation and said the actor's career in show business was effectively over.
'Empire' star Jussie Smollett, who was charged this past week with felony disorderly conduct for making a false report, is said to have confessed that he was attacked and beaten by two masked men shouting racist and homophobic slurs because he was "dissatisfied with his salary" on the Fox drama.
According to The Guardian, the revelation was made by Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson at a news conference on Thursday, February 21. Johnson criticized the actor and said he had taken "advantage of the pain and the anger of racism to promote his career," and that the attack was a "publicity stunt" which was "a scar that Chicago didn't earn and certainly didn't deserve."
In an exclusive conversation with MEA WorldWide, Ronn Torossian, the CEO of 5WPR, one of the country's leading privately owned public relations agencies, says he doesn't think there's any way Smollett can make a comeback if he is found guilty.
"The best thing that Jussie can do is pray and pray a lot," he said. "If he made it up, he has big problems in both the court of law and the court of public opinion."
The alleged 2 am January 29 attack on Smollet, who is gay, initially saw celebrities from all over the industry come out to express their support for the actor. The 36-year-old had told detectives that two masked assailants had tied a rope around his neck and poured an unknown chemical substance while yelling "Empire f*****" and "Empire n*****" at him. He claimed they were supporters of President Donald Trump and had yelled "This is MAGA country" before fleeing.
Johnson said Smollett had paid two men $3,500 to carry out the attack, promising them a further $500 later, and that the scratches and bruising the actor sustained on his face were "most likely self-inflicted." The superintendent also revealed he had sent a racist and homophobic threatening letter to himself last month at the Fox studio lot in Chicago where 'Empire' is filming.
The 36-year-old's story had begun falling apart after police arrested two Nigerian brothers, Abimbola 'Abel' and Olabinjo 'Ola' Osundairo, in connection to the case. The pair, who had been positively identified by Smollett, both worked as extras on the set of 'Empire' and were reportedly good friends with the actor and used to discuss health and fitness with him.
They reportedly confessed to detectives that the attack was initially supposed to happen earlier in the day and that they had attempted a practice run beforehand to ensure it went by smoothly without any hitches. The other evidence began piling up as well, and on Wednesday, police officially charged Smollett with felony disorderly conduct for making a false report.
The 36-year-old turned himself into the Chicago police the next day and later appeared in court, where his bail was set at $100,000 and he was asked to surrender his passport. He was later released from Cook County Jail after posting bond. If found guilty, Smollett could face up to three years in prison and also be asked to cover the cost of the investigation.
Variety reported that, after his release, Smollett was back on the set of 'Empire.' He was originally scheduled to film throughout this week but saw his role dramatically reduced after his ongoing legal troubles.
Fox has so far backed Smollett to the hilt, releasing multiple statements in support of the increasingly beleaguered actor. However, there was a noticeable shift in the tone of their most recent statement on Thursday, which just read, "We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options."
Torossian said in situations such as these, the best bet would be to come out and claim responsibility. "As questions mount, the public will be listening extra closely," he explained. "And in the age we live in, everything becomes known eventually, so it’s better to fess up and try to guide the narrative. When a crisis strikes, as it almost inevitably does for public figures, transparency and disclosure is key."
However, he said Smollett's case was too serious for him to have a career in show business again. "Smollett, assuming he is lying, is likely to be remembered only for this incident and I think his Hollywood career is over," he said. "Generally in the world of crisis, there’s two courts to worry about, the court of law and the court of public opinion. In the court of law, it's likely Smollett will be arrested soon for lying. In the court of public opinion, no one will want to stand near someone who paid his friends to stage an attack on him."