Barkley slam-dunks Smollett: Why didn't you just look up Liam Neeson?

Kamala Harris may be “sad, frustrated, and disappointed” by Jussie Smollett, but NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley finds the alleged hoax hilarious — for its incompetence. “America, let me just tell you something,” Barkley intoned during an NBA halftime on TNT, “do not commit crimes with checks.” Barkley had his partners on the set in stitches during this two-minute riff, which included this piece of advice  to Smollett from Barkley: The next time you want to stage a hate crime, go “up in Liam Neeson’s neighborhood.”


It started with the host of TNT’s “Inside the NBA” asking which of their panelists’ predictions about the rest of the season had no chance of coming true. Before anyone else could get a word in, Charles Barkley offered a reply that had nothing to do with basketball and everything to do with the arrest of actor Jussie Smollett over allegations that he hired two Nigerian men to stage a racist attack on him.

“Two black guys beating a black guy up,” Barkley said late Thursday, sending co-host Shaquille O’Neal into a wheezing laugh that had him banging the desk. The baffled host, Ernie Johnson, could only shake his head and muster, “I can’t believe you, Chuck.”

Not everyone on the set was laughing, however:

As Barkley was still giggling from the joke, a member from the production staff could be heard yelling something at him, perhaps in an effort to end talk of a sensitive story that remains raw for those who initially backed Smollett. Some online suggested that the person off-camera yelled, “Stop!

Charles Barkley doesn’t respond well to people telling him to stop talking. That won’t keep people from trying, including Esquire’s Justin Kirkland, who wanted him to stop too:

If you want an unfiltered opinion, just ask NBA legend Charles Barkley. If you don’t want an unfiltered opinion, then make sure that he is completely out of the room, because during Thursday night’s NBA Halftime Show on TNT, Barkley came out of left field to roast Jussie Smollett on the alleged staging on his own hate crime. In a word, it’s brutal. In a few more? It’s random, weird, and will make you uncomfortable. …

In a way, it’s the most predictable way to punctuate a week of disastrous news from the Smollett case. In a timeline of accounts that only seemed to drive the case further into the ground, Barkely happily picked up the shovel to dig in a little further.

Er, no, Smollett and the celebrities who used his hoax to beat up on their own bêtes noires did all the digging. Barkley’s just pointing out the holes and laughing. He’s one of the least politically correct celebrities in the business, known for his blunt style and sense of humor. Who cares if this “remains raw for those who initially backed Smollett”? Perhaps they should have exercised better judgment at that time rather than clucking tongues at Barkley last night for poking fun at what has been a ridiculous spectacle for a while. As Barkley demonstrates with his Neeson reference, he has an even-handed approach to ridicule.

I don’t usually patrol the late-night television shows, but it’s worth asking: Was Barkley the first late-night “comic” to skewer Jussie Smollett other than Trevor Noah at roughly the same time? I’d bet the answer is yes, and I’d further bet that they’ll be the only two for a while. I’m prepared to be pleasantly surprised with examples preceding Sir Charles and Noah, but … I’m not holding my breath.

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David Strom 5:21 PM on March 31, 2023