Before presenter Chris Rock walked out onstage at the 2019 NAACP Image Awards on Saturday, producers warned the comedian not to crack any jokes about actor Jussie Smollett. So he did.
Moments after taking the stage, Rock launched a scathing rebuke of the Empire star, who skipped this year's awards show and dinner.
"They said no Jussie jokes. I know," said Rock, smiling coyly. "What a waste of light skin. You know what I could do with that light skin? That curly hair. My career would be out of here. F---ing running Hollywood," he said, as the audience howled with laughter.
"What the hell was he thinking?" Rock added. "From now on, I ain't never gonna - you're Jessie from now on. You don't get the "u" no more. That "u" was respect. You don't get no respect from me."
Smollett, 36, was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his role as Jamal Lyon on Fox TV's soap opera Empire.
He lost the award to actor Jesse Williams of Grey's Anatomy.
Click here to see the complete list of winners.
Smollett told police he was attacked by two Trump supporters wearing red hats in a racist and anti-homosexual hate crime outside his Chicago condo on Jan. 29.
He was arrested on Feb. 20 and charged with lying to police. A grand jury later charged him with 16 counts of felony disorderly disorder. 1 count for each lie he told police.
But in a bizarre turn of events, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx dropped all 16 charges and asked a judge to seal his records.
She later admitted she never actually recused herself from his case. She claimed she only said she did it symbolically.
NAACP Awards host Anthony Anderson caught heat on Twitter.com for saying he hoped Smollett would win an award.
"I think it would be a good thing for him, I think it's a good thing for their show, and why not come be celebrated with his peers and his community," said Anderson in an interview with Entertainment Tonight.
LGBT groups and civil rights groups washed their hands of Smollett for using hate crime laws to perpetrate a hoax for his own selfish benefit.
"Smollett is charged with perpetrating a hate crime hoax that wasted valuable police resources and stoked racial tensions nationwide," said Project 21 Chairman Bishop Council Nedd II.
Nedd called on the NAACP to rescind Smollett's nomination prior to the awards broadcast.
"It hurts our nation's ability to heal its racial wounds and made the NAACP's civil rights goals harder to achieve. The NAACP needs to make it clear that his behavior is not OK by removing him from contention for an Image Award."
The few Smollett fans who still believe in his innocence vented their anger at Chris Rock on Twitter.com. But the majority of Twitter users were supportive of Rock.
I fuck with Yara Shahidi for saying “I stand with Jussie” after the Chris Rock flat ass joke.
— Breezy F Baby and the F is for Fluoxetine (@radsadblackbry) March 31, 2019
Chris Rock can go to hell
— B.B. Homemaker (@shortNstilettos) March 31, 2019
I hope the world continues to have a place for comedians who tell it like it is
— ??????? ????? (@312Gina) April 1, 2019
#ChrisRock said out loud what every one was thinking.
— Art3mis (@Art3misParz1) March 31, 2019
Chris Rock is hilarious... I'm not cancelling shit. Jussie Smollett deserved to be roasted. Carry on! ??
— Michelle ? (@Chelleybelle1) March 31, 2019
??? Chris Rock.
There was a time you could joke about anyone or anything. And nobody tripped.
Now. We live in this ultra-sensitive society full of wannabe woke MFers so comics can barely be comics anymore.
Glad Chris defied the BS "No Jussie Joke" rule. Foh wit that.
— El Zé ?? (@HereLiesZay) March 31, 2019
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images